Film Reviews

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP

By • Sep 22nd, 2006 •

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Warner Independent Pictures / Gaumont, Partizan Pictures
No MPAA rating / Running time — 105 minutes

Gainsbourg has anti-film presence. Why is she in movies hiding from the camera and not wearing makeup or combing her hair?

He cries. She doesn’t wash her hair. They are Stephane (Mexico’s Gael Garcia Bernal) and Stephanie (French celebrity daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg). I’m not a slave to manufactured stardom, but why is Gainsbourg in a movie where she is supposed to be beautiful yet her character hides from the camera, has not one close-up, and won’t wear any make-up to cover up a sallow complexion? Her hair covers half her face.

Worse, sometimes Bernal and Gainsbourg appear to be improvising dialogue.

Even if Michel Gondry is in love with his cinematic stand-in, Bernal, shouldn’t he have at least given Gainsbourg one decent scene? Gondry’s autobiographical film, where dreams and the people in dreams merge with reality, was filmed in the house he once lived in 15 years ago. Enough said.

Sure, I wonder who are those people I seem to know so well in my dreams, but I never go looking for them.

Gondry must have chosen Bernal and Gainsbourg before he wrote the screenplay, since there are glaring loopholes. Stephane Miroux lives in Mexico but returns to Paris to his mother’s (Miou-Miou) empty apartment after the death of his father. He’s the product of French parents but doesn’t speak French. Apparently Stephane missed his father’s funeral. His mother owns the apartment house and has arranged a job for Stephane as a graphic designer. The weird staff just puts together dog and female nude calendars. It is not the promised creative job he returned for. So he didn’t leave Mexico to comfort his kind mother. However, Stephane is a genuine creative artist who lives in his own world of fantasy and dreams. We are privileged to see his dreams and world-view on display.

Stephane is a product of today’s reality TV instant stardom, YouTube.com, and MySpace.com self-promotion. Stephane lives his life as a TV show. He is always performing and creating a world out of handy items, such as cardboard boxes.

Everyone indulges Stephane for a very legitimate reason: he is charming and thoroughly creative. He’s magical.

His new neighbor is sour-puss Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and he falls fanatically in love with her. Stephanie is both interested and repelled by Stephane. Maybe it’s his crying and infantile behavior.

Which, frankly, is a turn-off. I can’t stop thinking why Gondry had his stand-in weeping in a fetal position. Wisely, Stephanie tells him girls don’t like this.

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP has a terrible trailer which will limit audience interest. Then it is in partial-subtitles. And Gainsbourg is in it. Gondry has a following and his creativity is stunning, but THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP slumbers.


Credits:
Screenwriter-director: Michel Gondry
Producer: Georges Bermann
Director of photography: Jean-Louis Bompoint
Editor: Juliette Welfling

Cast:
Stephane: Gael Garcia Bernal
Stephanie: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Co-worker: Alain Chabat

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