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“The Science of Sleep.”

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"I am your neighbor and a liar. By the way, do you have Zoe's number?"
Stéphane and Stéphanie, the two eccentric waifs involved in "The Science of Sleep"‘s semi-romance, are played Gael García Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, a pairing of immense cosmopolitan charm and attractiveness. That director Michel Gondry manages to make them seem wan and unappealing is remarkable — the film is a testament to the benefits of collaboration with others.

Gondry has proven himself capable of apparently infinite visual inventiveness in his earlier films and his often brilliant music videos, and "The Science of Sleep" overflows with unforgettable set pieces, most representing the dreams of Stéphane, who has trouble distinguishing between sleep and waking life. A paper city dances outside a window; a man’s hands grow larger and larger as he tries to put together a paste-up; a ski trail is knitted together out of yarn. These scenes are all the more amazing when one takes into account that the film was made for a reported $6 million — Gondry has managed to squeeze more visual jolts out of next to nothing than, say, Gore Verbinski did with the over $200 million he got to make some pirate flick.

It’s too bad the rest of the film is such a mess. The story is "The Science of Sleep" is, Gondry has said in interviews, an autobiographical one. The film is shot in the director’s old Parisian apartment and is loosely based around his days working a dreary job in a calendar company, and, perhaps to compensate for any potential egotism of such a conceit, Gondry has written his stand-in Stéphane as a man just barely short of batshit insane. Stéphane is lured to Paris from Mexico by his mother (Miou-Miou) after the death of his father. She’s set him up with a job he expects will be more creative than it turns out to be — no one appreciates his idea of a calendar of illustrated disasters, and he’s put to work doing layouts. Rather than fall back on the typical escapes most people turn to when confronted with a dull day job (heavy drinking, TV, a side project), Stéphane takes to romancing/stalking the girl next door, Stéphanie, a sweet if barely formed character who dabbles in music and animation and has seemingly infinite patience for neurotic and infuriating behavior.

When you tilt your head the right way, you can see the story Gondry probably intended, that of tentative love blooming between two prickly, quirky young people with rich inner lives. And there are moments of that, of shabby wonder that are downright magical, from a stop-motion mechanical horse galloping around the floor of Stéphanie’s apartment to Stéphane’s strangest invention, a time machine (made out of a Speak & Spell) that sends you back only one second. But, like Stéphane, the film can’t seem to get out of its own head, and it rambles along like a disjointed anecdote that makes more sense to the teller than the tellee. Why does Stéphane ram his head into the door? What the hell does Stéphanie want, anyway? Who let Gondry write the script for his next film, "Be Kind Rewind"? We have no doubt he’ll provide ample explanation on the eventual DVD commentary, but we’d be more inclined to rewatch the film with the sound off, all the better to enjoy the prettiness.

Opens in limited release today.

+ "The Science of Sleep" (Warner Independent)

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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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