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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).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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