Michel Gondry

On his handmade The Science of Sleep.

Textures, dreams, and an unhappily resolved old relationship were on the mind of Michel Gondry when he visited SIFF for the highly anticipated June screening of The Science of Sleep (see review below). He spoke ingenuously, in accented and idiosyncratic English, about the very personal origins of the project and its handmade design. "It was my first self-written movie; I didn't feel that I could depict somebody I've never been," he explains of protagonist Stephane, who returns to a Paris that's both contemporary and the city of his own pre-computer youth. Stephane's dismal day job is basically Gondry's old job "working at this kind of calendar company, but it was 1982, so we were not working with computers. So I could have looked at how it's done now, and I didn't do it . . . the same way I illustrated the dreams." Those dreams are illustrated in the TV studio of Stephane's head—made of cardboard, tinfoil, and felt. "I wanted to explore my dreams and my feelings," Gondry continues. "We decided to do it all on an affordable budget, so we had much more crafted, handmade stuff. Those felt animals were made by this girl I had this huge crush on two years ago. She actually made those objects for the movie as well, so it's completely interweaving with real life." The relationship didn't work out, he adds, but that didn't stop him from making the trauma into a film. "To a point, it's a little insane, unhealthy, but I thought I would do a better movie. I used myself as a sort of emotional laboratory . . . to collaborate with somebody I had a crush on that didn't respond to me. "I should have run away from this person for my own good, but I said, 'OK, I'm going to try to keep collaborating, because I know it's the best for the film; even though I'm more sad, more obsessed, and more unbalanced, it's going to make the film more special.' So I was deliberately doing experimentation on me." Also unbalanced is Stephane, who can't keep track of what's real and unreal, what he dreams and what he actually experiences with his crush across the hall in his apartment building. Just as Gondry himself has experienced: "I have a journal of my dreams. I illustrate them. The funny part is that when you write it or draw it, you have no recollection of it [later]. And some are really connected with this person with whom I was in love. In your memory, it's very difficult to separate dreams from reality. I think I'm quite lucky to remember them. Even if sometimes it's quite confusing. You can be in the logical world, but still be in sync with the logic of the dream." bmiller@seattleweekly.com

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