Michel Gondry’s Latest (Greatest) Idea

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

You can’t spend a significant amount of time with director Michel Gondry without hearing at least four ideas that are completely brilliant and utterly insane. The smartest/craziest I heard during our half hour chat: Gondry’s unsuccessful proposal to push the advertising for his current film, “The Science of Sleep,” with selling points from his next one, “Be Kind Rewind.” “It would have said, ‘From the director of Jack Black’s next movie!'” Gondry said. “They didn’t go for it.”

Gondry’s ideas make him perhaps the single most exciting director alive today, but, as this story illustrates, his ideas aren’t always admired. There’s a lot of that Gondry, that mad and occasionally unpopular thinker, in Gael Garcia Bernal’s character Stephane in “The Science of Sleep.” Stephane toils away at a calendar company where his co-workers reject his creativity and insist on practicality. It’s a feeling Gondry knows all too well.

You’ve said numerous times that “The Science of Sleep” is a very autobiographical film. Does the fact that it’s such a personal story make it an easier or harder film to shoot?

It makes it easier in a sense, because I know where the characters are coming from, especially Stephane. And I knew a lot of the details because they already happened in real life. But it makes it very hard because the details included could be very embarrassing. But it was interesting because it was a good challenge to have to deal with that. I would have never expected I was capable of writing the story and directing the whole film and I’m glad I did.

And this was your first film that you both wrote and directed. Why did you choose to go that route with this project?

Well, because I could not explain the film to a writer. I didn’t want to justify or explain the dreams. I had to do them the way I experienced them, otherwise the whole thing would be pointless. As a writer, I’m not here to help the story. The story is there to help the dreams.

Gael’s job is so difficult in the film because he has to be both likable and unlikable, sometimes in the same scene.

Because the film was autobiographical, I didn’t want people to see it as revenge. So I decided if there was going to be heavy dysfunctionality, I would put it on my end; so, on Gael’s end. My first thought was that, since he’s really handsome, you wonder why Charlotte [Gainsbourg] is not necessarily attracted to him. So I had to push the neurosis a little bit more than in my case, and make him very intense and scary. But the thing is, he is such a likable person that I could push him even farther into being an asshole. If it had been another actor it would have been a different story.

You’ve worked with special effects many times in the past. In this case, you chose to forego digital effects in favor of a more analog approach.

Initially all the dreams were supposed to happen in [Stephane’s] office. But when I met Gael, he pushed me to go deeper into my personal dreams, and I thought that we could not afford to create that world in a realistic way. And I thought “Let’s do it hand-made it and it’ll be more humble.” Something I didn’t expect in the beginning that quickly became clear was that it gives you the feeling that no matter where you go you wind up in one of Stephane’s contraptions. The fact that it’s hand-made makes you feel you’re watching something made by Stephane.

If you’d had a bigger budget, would it have been a different movie?

I think I’d have made something more spectacular out of the dreams. I had so many ideas. But I don’t think it would have necessarily been better. Probably not as good, I would say.

“The Science of Sleep” and “Eternal Sunshine” might sound similar superficially, but when you watch them, they’re vastly different films. Did you feel any internal or external pressure to repeat “Eternal Sunshine” with this film?

No, it’s the opposite. I’ve had this project long before “Eternal Sunshine” and I’ve wanted to do this movie for so long. In fact, some people were trying to say to me “Don’t do this one, it’s too close to your last one,” but since it’s the movie I really wanted to make I didn’t care. I think what’s inside our heads is vast enough for two movies.

“The Science of Sleep” opens in limited release on September 22 (official site).


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.