A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Thursday, September 28

The Science of Sleep: the movie; the art show

In 2004, director Michael Gondry teamed up with screenwriter Charlie Kauffman and the result was one of my favorite movies of the last five years or so, the smart, imaginative, heartbreaking, hopelessly romantic Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind.

Gondry's on his own in The Science of Sleep—the story of man-child Stephane who gets lost between dreams and reality while falling in love with his comely neighbor Stephanie—and I must say I really missed Kauffman's edge, as well as his gift for maintaining a tight narrative amid surreal surroundings. Even with significantly lowered expectations based on DGlass's lukewarm review, Science of Sleep has to be called a disappointment.

The main culprit? Stephane. Though Gael Garcia Bernal is appropriately doe-eyed and admirably game, Gondry's admitted alter-ego may start out charming and sweet, but pretty quickly his cutesy act turns cloying; his vulnerability, more about self-pity. And during the movie's final half hour or so I felt like he became almost irritating, a sentimental stalker. The ending suggests that this arc may very well have been intentional on Gondry's part, but that doesn't mean I found it appealing to watch.

The film does have its amusing moments, and many of the dream sequences nicely evoke the way our waking reality—our fears and desires, frustrations and hopes, people, places and things—gets all mashed together in unlikely ways as we sleep. And the settings are often fantastic...

...which is why you should REALLY see Gondry's "Exhibition of Sculpture and Pathological Creepy Little Gifts", now at Deitch on Grand Street, but only through Saturday, September 30. This collection of sets and props from the movie, occasionally interactive and often cleverly integrated with video screens, is a total delight. You don't need to have seen the film in order to appreciate these busy, beguiling, slightly insane creations, but it probably helps. (Or maybe it even works better in reverse—seeing this exhibit actually made me think more fondly of the movie.) Either way, I wish it weren't closing so soon, because I know Bo and Co would have really liked it.

And if you go, make sure you play the piano.

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