Feb 02, 2009 12:00AM

The Science of Michel Gondry

If you're familiar with Michel Gondry's films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep and Be Kind Rewind), you could be forgiven for thinking the 44-year-old Frenchman is either: a) a pothead or b) into hardcore hallucinogenic substances. Gondry's skill is that while his kaleidoscopically trippy films make the viewer feel as if they've been drugged, he "doesn't do drugs" himself. He doesn't need to. His mind is naturally altered. Gaynor Flynn writes.

Michel Gondry's mind has fascinated people for years, and if you want to know what it's like to be him, watch The Science of Sleep, his "autobiopical" film (his misuse of English is called a "Gondryism.") Like Stephane (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) Gondry falls for women who usually don't reciprocate his feelings, and is an incurable fantasist who spends an inordinate amount of time living inside his own head (which is probably the reason behind his problems with the ladies).

"I'm obsessed with the mind," says Gondry in that sing-songy voice of his. "I like trying to figure out how the brain works and how dreams work. Not understanding [it] but [figuring] how it comes together." This was actually the basis for Science, but all his films have explored the mushy grey area between reality and fantasy, wakefulness and dreams.

Gondry's latest film, Tokyo, is no different. Consisting of three short films by three different directors (the other two are Bong Joon-ho and Leos Carax), it is about a young couple who move to Tokyo with hardly any money. While the film is based on a story by his friend, cartoonist Gabrielle Bell, the exploration of ordinary people with extraordinary inner lives is right up Gondry's street.

Like everything the Frenchman does, whether it's one of his beguiling films or a trailblazing music video for bands like The White Stripes or The Rolling Stones, there is usually a serious metaphor underlying the sugar-coated fantasies. For example: Tokyo is about a girl who feels useless but finds some satisfaction by morphing into a chair. "I think many people feel like chairs," comments Gondry. "I have felt invisible a lot. For instance, I was very much in love with girls and would be scared to be rejected so to avoid [that] I would act like a girlfriend. I felt like a chair because the girl I loved would talk to me about the guy [she liked] in class."

Rejection is also a recurring theme in Gondry's work. "I want to find a great girlfriend but they always dump me," he says with a shrug. "Somebody once asked me, 'can you give us advice because your movies are very romantic and we find it hard to keep a girlfriend,' and I said, 'Wow, you're asking me that? Are you crazy?'"

Professionally, Gondry has had his fair share of knock-backs as well. When he first showed his animation to people "they would laugh," he recalls. "Nobody liked my work in the beginning." Then one day Bjork saw a music video he had done for the band Oui Oui (he was their drummer), and asked him to direct the video of her song 'Human Behaviour'. Bands like Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers soon followed suit. "I was a little bit inconfidence," he says (another Gondryism). "Bjork taught me to trust my instincts more and intellect less. She saw my qualities before I saw them, so she really helped me be myself."

You can't help but wonder what the young Gondry imagined he would be when he grew up. Music was clearly a passion. His father ran a music shop in Versailles and gave Gondry a drum set as a child. "We were terrible," he laughs of his band Oui Oui. "I was not a musician, you know, I was a drummer. It's like that joke: when four die in a plane crash they say, 'three musicians died and one drummer!' "I liked people who are unique," he continues, reflecting on his childhood. "[Brazillian soccer star] Pele is a great artist because his work in football is like a geometric pattern. I'm not a big fan of sport, but I really like seeing that geometric [pattern] because it satisfies my brain. I was very inspired by those people who were the best in their field. So I wanted to be unique, of course, and loved."

Being unique could have manifested itself in any number of ways, but filmmaking "satisfied" Gondry because you have to be part artist and part mad scientist to make it work. Of course Gondry exemplifies this better than most. Conventional dramas don't interest him. Absurd alternate realities or dreamscapes are his thing. Sometimes they're messy or rough around the edges, but that doesn't matter. His playfulness and na

Oystermag

Latest


Tome Interview & SS13 Lookbook

"We didn't want to make anything that required instructions to put on."


Oyster Fashion: 'Ilva' By Marton Perlaki From Our 100th Issue

Marton Perlaki hails from Hungary but spends his time between New York and Paris. This is his first shoot for Oyster.


Russell Brand is Coming to Australia

Get your pre-sale tickets today!


Dream Playlist: Geologist of Animal Collective

Plus, Australian sideshows announced for their 2013 Big Day Out tour!


10 Reasons Why Mark Fast's LFW Show Was Awesome

Including but not limited to: capes, models who looked like working girls, and one of the guests singing along to the music.


London Fashion Week Interview: Richard Nicoll

We ask the Australian expat if he has tried on any of the dresses and what his collection's star sign would be.


London Fashion Week Backstage: Christopher Kane

Graphics and embellished sorbets.


New York Fashion Week Interview: Kym Ellery

"The collection is kind of a Venice Beach basketball moment."


Amanda Palmer's Grand Theft Orchestra

She raised $1 million, but is still asking you to work for free.


London Fashion Week Review: Mary Katrantzou

Queen Amidala on a country vacay.


London Fashion Week Backstage: Mary Katrantzou

Behind-the-scenes at one of LFW's most anticipated shows.


Oyster Illustration: Amanda Palmer

She drew it on a bed sheet with a sharpie!


London Fashion Week Interview: Jonathan Saunders

Zac Bayly attempts to troll Serious Fashion Journalists backstage at LFW.


London Fashion Week Review: Topshop Unique, Acne & Paul Smith

It Girls, white-on-white, and immaculate blazers.


Watch: Frank Ocean 'Pyramids' Directed By Nabil

Plus, Frank performs on the SNL season premiere!


London Fashion Week Backstage: House of Holland

Jewels, sunglasses and pretty girls.


London Fashion Week Interview: Dion Lee

"The type of woman that I was attracted to this season was a little more… Demure."


London Fashion Week Interview: House of Holland

We ask Henry to liken his collection to frozen yogurt toppings, and he tells us he's a mummy's boy.


London Fashion Week Interview: Twiggy

We speak to the world's first supermodel backstage at Sass & Bide's LFW show.


Copycat: Shop David Bowie

Shop his enduring style — featuring Balmain, Surface to Air, Acne and more.


London Fashion Week Backstage: Sass & Bide

Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, sequins, floral corsages, feathers and pops of bright orange.


London Fashion Week Interview: Willow

Three words to sum up the collection? "Whisp. Tailor. Dream."


Street Style Before Street Style: David Bowie

"I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human" — David Bowie.


Top 10 Girls of NYFW: GIF Edition

Our runway favourites, now with added animation — featuring Julia Nobis, Lindsey Wixson, Liberty Ross and more.


Oyster Playlist: Kenji Takimi's Top 5 Party Songs

See the Japanese DJ play at Adult Disco in Sydney and at the Bamboo Musik party in Melbourne!


New York Fashion Week Backstage: Proenza Schouler

World Wide Web, high fashion style.


Bruna Kazinoti Shoots Sheriff & Cherry Eyewear in Croatia

An eyewear by Mark Vassallo and Mauro Massarotto.


Win Tickets to See The Rubens Play Live

Their debut album is out Friday 14 September!


Model of the Moment: Ruby Jean Wilson

We profile the 18-year-old Australian model who opened and closed the Marc Jacobs at NYFW this week.


New York Fashion Week Backstage: Rodarte

Karlie, Lindsey and Aline go all Game of Thrones on us.


Topshop Collaborates with Facebook for LFW Runway Extravaganza

Enjoy front row fashion via the internet!


Terry Richardson's Mum Passes Away

And Lady Gaga shaves head in her honour.