The Science of Sleep

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Review #215 of 365
Film: The Science of Sleep [R] 106 minutes
French Title: La Science des rêves
WIP™ Scale: $12.00
Where Viewed: Landmark Mayan, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 14 August 2006
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Soundtrack: Download now from Jean-Michel Bernard - The Science of Sleep (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
I see that it's going to be a sunny day. Darn, the car won't start. No matter, I'll just walk. That tree looks unfamiliar. Was it there last week? I reach up an pull off a Nestle® Crunch Bar from its branches and peel back the wrapper to expose the delicious fruit to the warm air. I'll never understand why they don't melt on the tree. Somehow, it air conditions them. My first bite is sumptuous and crunchy as advertised. I love chocolate. It tastes fantastic. Ah, there's the movie theatre ahead. I wonder if Gael García Bernal will be there at this Denver Film Society-Sponsored preview? Probably not. He's gotten too big. He was the star of The King. Gosh that was an awful film. I hope he didn't read my review of it. Actually, he wasn't bad. The acting wasn't bad. Come to think of it, the actors were all pretty good. It was the story that was bad. Oh yeah! Plus, this is downtown Denver. This isn't Chicago or LA or NYC where big stars hang out. There's the theatre. Wow, the Mayan Theatre looks more like a Mayan Temple than I remember. It's so huge. I have to walk up 5,280 steps to reach the entrance. Fortunately, I can take these stairs three at a time. Just as I get a bit closer to the top, a woman yells down to me. "Hey, you here to see the sleep movie?"

"The Science of Sleep movie?" I reply reaching her with a final leap?

"Yeah. That one." I look around. Not many people there. Well, it's morning. People have to work. I give her a high-five. "Wow, you came up those stairs fast."

"Oh, I've got big feet, I can leap like no other. I probably should have played in the NBA, but Michael Jordan stole my thunder with that alley-oop jump I had perfected."

"Really?" She asked excitedly. "I'm not familiar with Michael Jordan. Do you come here often?"

"To the Mayan, oh, sure, often enough. I saw Little Miss Sunshine here." I reached into my pocket and pulled out a trampoline. I want to jump and touch the clouds while we wait. You want to join? I took her hands and we jumped and jumped until we could see over the top of the Mayan. Then, we went a bit higher until I hit my head on the a cumulonimbus and fell to the base of the pyramid. As I fell, I kept thinking, well, it was a good life. Just before I hit the ground, I rolled over and noticed my cell phone beacon blinking indicating I had a new message.

"…highly creative and inventive, and thoroughly enchanting; but, still, it left a bitter taste in my mind…"
And so it was with Gael García Bernal as Stéphane Miroux in the French film, The Science of Sleep, about a young Mexican/French man who has managed to make to his mid-twenties despite what seems like a worsening condition of being nearly unable to distinguish his own dreams from reality. Needless to say, probably, this makes for an enchanting and artistically bountiful environment from which to draw a story and a movie with only a couple of draw backs. Director/writer Michel Gondry, who also brought us Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (he also directed Dave Chappelle's Block Party, but let's not go there), has created an incredible character in young Stéphane. The film begins as he arrives home to his boyhood apartment in the building owned by his mother and father. His father died recently, and his mother lives elsewhere, but she has, according to him, lured him there to take a creative job as an artist for calendars. He gets into his old twin-sized bed, and falls asleep. Shortly there after, an episode of Stéphane-TV, runs in his head--a wildly creative set invented in the dream world of Stéphane as his dreams take the form of a tv-talk show. Today's episode is a prelude to the film as he is doing a cooking show about the meaning of life. Things in the dream world are going well, but eventually he must awaken and get to his first day on the job. Unfortunately, when he arrives on the job for the first day, his new pal, Guy (Alain Chabat) has to be the one to break it to him that the company doesn't need artists, it just needs people to lay out the text around the pictures on the calendar pages. Stéphane is distraught and angry. Fortunately, his life takes on a whole new meaning that afternoon when a new neighbor, Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), moves into the apartment across the hall. An accident with her piano move-in, brings him over to meet Stéphanie and her friend, Zoé (Emma de Caunes). The rest of the film moves from the slightly surreal to the absolutely absurd as we move back and forth between Stéphane's dreams and the real world sometimes separated by just a second of sanity and sometimes it's hard to tell what's real and what's not.

Gael García Bernal is phenomenal in this film. His facility with Spanish, French, and English alone elevated the performance. More importantly, however, was the fact that he so obviously related to this character as he was able to become him completely. The rest of the cast, the special effects, the direction were all outstanding. The only difficulties I had in totally enjoying the film were: (a) it was a challenge at times to figure out reality, (b) the story has a very unsatisfying ending--it just sort of runs off into Stéphane's dream world, and (c) I didn't know how to feel for Stéphane. Toward the final point, was I supposed to see that he was borderline psychologically disturbed or otherwise mentally ill, and feel sorrow for him? Because I did. At times, his real world actions are not justifiable. Was I supposed to attribute this to his 'mental illness'? Actually, the object of his affection, Stéphanie, must face the same dilemma. She knows that he's not quite right, and she works to see if she can get past these problems and focus on the soul of the individual. Overall, the film is quite good, highly creative and inventive, and thoroughly enchanting; but, still, it left a bitter taste in my mind making it impossible for me to recommend unconditionally. No worries, though, I just scratched off my lottery ticket and won $10,000 a year for life. If only that 7-foot tall, Colorado Avalanche Bobble Head in the corner of the room weren't giving me that look of, "You better be planning to share that with me", with piercing, blue eyes, my life would be just about perfect.

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring: Gael García BernalCharlotte Gainsbourg
Alain ChabatMiou-MiouPierre Vaneck
Emma de CaunesAurélia PetitSacha Bourdo
Other Projects involving Director/Writer: Michel Gondry

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The Science of Sleep Review-lite [150-word cap]
Director/writer Michel Gondry created an incredible character, Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) for his new film, The Science of Sleep. The movie begins as Stéphane arrives at his boyhood apartment lured by his mother and a job she's gotten him as a calendar artist. Eventually, his job seems less exciting, and he becomes wrapped up in a 'relationship' with his neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). As the film progresses, we learn that Stéphane has an incredible imagination and the ability to fall into an enchanting dream world when he sleeps. The film moves from the slightly surreal to the absolutely absurd as we move back and forth between Stéphane's dreams and the real world sometimes separated by just a second of sanity. Overall, the film is highly creative and inventive, and thoroughly enthralling; but, still, the ending left a bitter taste in my mind making it impossible to recommend unconditionally.

1 comment:

psesito said...

I just watched the film and I felt identify with your comment.

The movie is so creative and fresh, but at the same time, this internal conflict between feeling sad about Stephane and understanding him was very disturbing.

Is he lost? Does he have a hope to find love? He wants love. He wants to be loved and he has so much love to offer, but, can someone take the risk of loving him back. I dont know. He lives in a dream, but life is not a dream. Well, but for him, it is.

This is the kind of movie that I like to think about it some days after it ends.