Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Science of Sleep

(La science des rêves, France, 2006)

Did you ever see a movie that was so visually imaginative, so inventive, so wild and crazy and superficially appealing that you almost … almost, didn’t realize that nothing of real interest was going on? That there was no real story here, or if there was, it wasn’t a very good or original one? One example that springs to mind is City of Lost Children, by the crazy genius Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Wow! Knocked my eyes right out of their sockets … but there’s not much there under the surface flash. Jeunet went on to redeem himself with Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amelie, in English markets), one of the finest movies I’ve ever seen, and Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement). I expect this director, Michael Gondry, to go on to more meaty stuff, too … because for one reason, he already has, in the form of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The difference between Spotless and Sleep is painfully obvious: Charlie Kaufman, the best screenwriter working in Hollywood today. He wrote the Spotless script, and he knows how to tell a story. Gondry needs some work.

Having said that, I will say that this movie is worth seeing. The visuals are so terrific they are worth the price of admission and almost two hours of your time. (Well, maybe an hour and a half; the last part began to seem repetitive.) You’ve heard of cardboard characters? This movie has cardboard sets, cardboard cities, cardboard cars! And I don’t mean that in a bad way. They are wonderful! There is clever animation, eye-popping art, that sense of magic lurking around every corner. I assume Gondry is responsible for a lot of the look of the piece, but I feel I should mention the three production designers, who certainly must have played a big part in making it all come alive: Ann Chakraverty, Pierre Pell, and Stéphane Rosenbaum. Fantastic job, you guys!