The Science of Sleep (just a small thought in addition)

I should have done this a long time ago. I write, and all of a sudden the thoughts keep on coming. I know this effect won't last long, but I'm going to exploit it while I can. For too long now I've fallen back on TV series and other easy-to digest fare, sitting back and just absorbing what comes towards me, or rather letting it flow through me without causing the slightest stir.

See, I was standing under the shower (aka. the only place I can think undistracted) and all of a sudden it hit me. Stéphane is what Calvin could have turned into had he grown up. And by analogy, Gondry is in fact the new Watterson.

Think about it. Calvin has his transmogrifier, his time machine, his other inventions. Stéphane has his one-second time-machine, the 3-D glasses, etc. Calvin sees his teachers and parents sometimes as aliens, while Stéphane sees his co-workers in very different guises in his dreams. Calvin's makes art with snow, Stéphane with cellophane. They both have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy.

And isn't it a nice fantasy to think that there might actually be a place in our world for a grown up Calvin?


The Science of Sleep

" Stéphane: [Shows 3-D glasses ] You can see real life in 3-D
Stéphanie: Isn't life already in 3-D?
Stéphane: Yeah but, come on.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as I probably have mentioned more than once, is a movie I love. It gets everything right. It's unbearably romantic without being sappy, it's smart, it makes sense, it features people with true flaws instead of the standard rom-com "quirks", and its ending is both unexpected and inevitable. Some find it cynical, but I think it couldn't possibly be more optimistic.

All this time, I somehow gave 100% of the credit for this wonderful film to Charlie Kaufman. That is, I did until I saw the Science of Sleep. Now I'm not so sure any more.

Oh, Kaufman is definitely responsible for how neatly the plot fits. For the surreal idea at the basis also, probably. But for the heart, the optimism, the idealism (if that's the right word)? For that, I now think we have Michel to thank.

See, The Science Of Sleep, written by, directed by, and clearly entirely of Michel Gondry, is all heart, all warmth, and again without even becoming sappy or predictable. It's less clever, less carefully constructed than Eternal Sunshine, and rather than ending in a perfectly formed and placed period it unravels like a homemade sweater, but despite and somehow also because of that it might be the movie I like better. The one I'll return to more often. I might even go see it again in theatres, something I've never done.

I've always had a longing to be creative. I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to make music, sing, paint, craft, anything really as long as it meant creating something that wasn't there before, and couldn't have been without me. As I aged, more and more options closed off as I discovered I had no particular musical talent (I tried the piano, the guitar, singing in a band, singing in a choir), that my most serviceable drawing was of my left hand, and that clay, in my hands, refused to become anything but just that: a lump of clay. The one glimmer of artistic talent I could discover in myself was writing, but even there... There is a scene in The Man Who Wasn't There where Scarlett Johanssen has just played for the famed french piano teacher, and Ed anxiously await his judgment. "She's a nice girl", the man says. "She plays...like a nice girl."

I've always felt like I write "like a nice girl" (whether I am in fact nice is still a matter under discussion).

I also discovered, however, that I was a pretty good spectator. Someone who noticed things most other people didn't, someone who could get lost entirely in a different world, mostly in books at first but then also in movies, in music.

I know this is a long digression, but stick with me a little longer, there is a point and I'm getting to it. See, just when I had made my peace with the fact that I would be a spectator rather than a creator in this world, I went to a screening of "the Science of Sleep". Not only did it re-awaken my desire to create somehing, anything, but it made it seem like a possibility. It made the entire world feel full of possibilities.

Most movies about creative people keep you at a distance. You see them paint, compose, write, but as a viewer you remain outside, looking in. It seems in film, it's as difficult to show the creative process than it is to illustrate how a mathematician thinks. Or should I say "seemed"?

What's made in the Science of Sleep is not, by any stretch, "high art". Clouds made of cotton, a sea made of candy wrappers, a toy horse that hobbles. But there's so much fun here. So much enthusiasm. And it feels like you're part of the creative process, like you're sharing in a secret with the main characters.

There is also, or course, a lot about love. Stephane and Stephanie, that's got to be meant to be, n'est-ce pas? It's impossible not to fall for Gael Garcia Bernal as Stephane, the boy who can't really distinguish dreams from reality, and who charmingly mingles French, English and Spanish. He cooks up dreams within his dreams, and they're a concoction that's both eclectic and oddly tangible and down to earth. And how could we not fall in love with his next-door neighbour Stephanie (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) outwardly tough but with oh-so-recognisable insecurities lurking just under the surface, who needs only a little encouragement to come out to play with Stephane in his dream world, but who has a hard time finding the patience to deal with all his odd behavior?

Still, even if the love story is front and center, the movie is ultimately about more than just relationships, and that might be what makes it stronger than Eternal Sunshine. Aside from revolving around two people who belong together and whether they will, in fact, make it, it's first and foremost about creativity. About being and staying a dreamer. About seeing the world with fresh eyes, as I certainly did after walking out of the theatre, blinking against the harsh sunlight of reality.

The feeling of possibility fades all too quickly, I'm afraid. Maybe that's why I long to get myself a new shot of optimism by seeing the film again. In any case, I know one thing for sure: Michel Gondry is not just a guy who can do amazing things with his toes. He's also someone in whose world I'd love to live.

N.B. Dreamers be warned. Click here only if you're a cynic.

" Stéphane: P. S. R. Parallel Synchronized Randomness. An interesting brain rarity and our subject for today. Two people walk in opposite directions at the same time and then they make the same decision at the same time. Then they correct it, and then they correct it, and then they correct it, and then they correct it, and then they correct it. Basically, in a mathematical world these two little guys will stay looped for the end of time. The brain is the most complex thing in the universe and it's right behind the nose. "

Further Reading:
Gondry interviewed about dreams
A little about his new project


A Scanner Darkly, or, some thoughts on living in an open society

Recently, on Filmspotting, Sam remarked that one of Richard Linklater’s great strengths was his talent for writing and directing dialogue. He was talking about Fast Food Nation, but oddly enough, he might as well have been reviewing Linklater's other 2006 film, A Scanner Darkly.

Why oddly? Because what jumps out at first sight in this film is the visual aspect. Like Waking Life, this was first filmed as a live-action movie, then drawn over digitally. Unlike Waking Life, the style here is consistent, with one overall style, and there is even a semblance of a plot, adapted from the Philip K. Dick book of the same name.

The style works wonderfully within the surreal world of the film, and allows the shape-shifting suits and the character's drugged delusions to come to life. But it's the dialogue that sticks with you, the rhythm and cadence of it, delivered especially well by a twitchy but fascinating Robert Downey Jr. It's crazy dialogue, but it feels uncomfortably familiar, what with all the non-sequiturs and people talking more to themselves than to others. It's funny, too: the scene with the 8/9/18 speed bike made me double over in laughter (but also made me want to yell "MULTIPLY" to the screen).

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot more to the movie. I wanted to love it, I really did, wanted to put it next to Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in my personal pantheon, but unfortunately, the whole is much less than the sum of its parts. Not only does the movie lose its momentum entirely in the last 15/20 minutes, but I'm afraid it's not by far as relevant as Linklater wants it to be.

The world Philip K. Dick created, or at least the world Linklater brought to life, is one under permanent surveillance. There are cameras everywhere, there's a file on everyone, and only one big corporation escapes. In parts, the film itself feels like a surveillance tape.

Some things Linklater gets right. He perfectly illustrates, for example, how boring surveillance must be. But he gets the most important thing wrong: what's scary about today's world is not so much how much we can and are being watched. Instead, it's how much we enable the surveillance ourselves, how much, in fact, we seem to crave it.

It's only 8 years ago that, in 10 things I hate about you, Heath Ledger had to ask the sister of the girl he wanted to seduce for advice. Nowadays, he could just google her, find her MySpace/Facebook/whatever profile, visit her blog, and he'd get a point by point instruction manual: what movies, music and books she liked, her type of guy, her political opinions, maybe even her idea of the perfect date.

In this day, we are all exhibitionists. I more than participate, of course: I might not share many details of my personal life, but all my opinions, tastes, and weaknesses are here for anyone to explore and, possibly, exploit. I put it all up there willingly (also because I've decided being an open person in every aspect of my life is in some respects safer, but that's a story for another day), but was I always fully aware of how much I was sharing? Is everyone every time they post a comment on a blog somewhere, a note on someone's "wall"?

The scary thing is, today, you don't need to be a nameless, faceless, all-powerful government or even corporation to be able to investigate people. Everyone can. And that is much more scary than anything A Scanner Darkly has to offer.

Don't let me discourage you from seeing it though. It's a trip, and as I mentioned, the dialogue is wonderful. As for Keanu, I object to people who say he cannot act. He doesn't have an awful lot of range, true, but within his narrow range he can be quite good, and he is, here. He gets a chance to explore what it means to still be a slacker when you're 40 or thereabouts, and he even manages to imbue this with some poignancy.


"Alright, I'm gonna give you a little feedback since you seem to be proceeding through life like a cat without whiskers perpetually caught behind the refrigerator. Your life and watching you live it is like a gag-reel of ineffective bodily functions. I swear to god that a toddler has a better understanding of the intricacies of chew-swallow-digest-don't kill yourself on your TV dinner! And yet you've managed to turn this near death fuckup of yours into a moral referendum on me!"

Let's try this again, shall we?


*clears throat*

One, one two.

Testing, testing.

Alright. Let's do this.

I realize that this nth attempt to give this blog a restart might seem futile, seeing how the last few have failed rather unspectacularly. Why? Procrastination on my part. Lack of inspiration. Lack of self-esteem (aka. finding my own writing unbearably terrible). And, although I hate to admit it, lack of response. I am afraid I am burdened with an (apparently genetic) longing for confirmation.

Just like my dad cannot help asking my mom three times "wasn't it nice that I brought you to the train station", just like he needs to hear from every single person at the table that the food he cooked was delicious (at least twice), I have a tough time staying motivated if there isn't someone reading every single word, and responding. I hate to admit it because I know the fact that I have few visitors is unlikely to change, but I'll try to get over myself.

So, what brought on this new elan, to quote our embarrasingly dull prime minister? And isn't it a bad idea, maybe, to try restarting a blog two weeks before rather crucial exams?

Probably. Thing is, I seem to be once again in something which I, with a somewhat overblown sense of drama, call an existential crisis. I started a Master's programme in Theoretical Physics last September. While the foolishness of such an endeavour might seem obvious to most, it's only starting to dawn on me now, mostly because I am starting to suspect I might simply be too stupid for it. And bit by bit, I feel like I am going a little more crazy every day, or at least a little more miserable.

I'm not about to quit, don't worry. And I am studying hard for those exams, and will continue to do so in the next two weeks despite how futile it feels. But to stop the going crazy part, I need not just some distraction and relaxation, but I also need to feel like I am doing at least something productive. I can't paint, like one of my friends/study mates does. I can however write (whether I can write well is, of course, another point entirely), and so when revamping my blog I decided I will. And since I was in this resolution-making mood, I decided I'll photograph more again too.

About the revamp, some new things: an elaborated link list, at first. I've added a picture, as you can see, although it'll probably be replaced soon. I intend to keep the filmlog up to date for a lot longer than last year. I've also used the new labelling feature, although I might still tinker with it some more. Furthermore, and maybe somewhat less noticeable, is the "recommended reading" list at the bottom. I'll post there every interesting article I find, and older links will be posted in a backdated post with a link in the sidebar.

The labelling was interesting, as it forced me to go back through old posts. I admit it was often a little embarrassing, like meeting an older version of yourself and thinking, 'what a silly girl'. But it was also motivating because some posts, some of the longer, more thought-out ones, reminded me of how much fun I had writing them, and of how much of an accomplishment I felt they were. They got the label "starred", and they're the posts I'm proudest of.

I hope more of them will come.

Phew. That was it. Wish me luck. And let's see how long I keep it up this time.


Filmlog 2007

12/28 The Stranger* (Welles, 1946)
12/27 3:10 to Yuma* (Mangold, 2007)
12/27 Black Snake Moan* (Brewer, 2006)
12/26 Ratatouille (Bird, 2007)
12/23 Marie Antoinette (Coppola, 2006)
12/22 Kiss Me, Deadly* (Aldrich, 1955)
12/22 The Postman Always Rings Twice* (Garnett, 1946)
12/22 Bottle Rocket (Anderson, 1996)
12/21 P the Darjeeling Limited* (Anderson, 2007)
12/20 Rio Bravo* (Hawks, 1959)
12/16 Inland Empire* (Lynch, 2007)
12/15 Brick (Johnson, 2005)
12/13 Knocked Up* (Apatow, 2007)
12/12 Lady Chatterley* (Ferran, 2006)
12/09 Zodiac* (Fincher, 2007)
12/07 P Du Levande/ You, the Living* (Andersson, 2007)
12/07 P Wonderful Town* (Assarat, 2008)
12/05 Waitress* (Shelly, 2007)
12/03 P No Country for Old Men* (Coen bros. 2007)
12/02 Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)
12/02 My Man Godfrey* (La Cava, 1936)
11/30 P TBS* (Kuijpers, 2008)
11/30 P Before The Devil Knows You're Dead* (Lumet, 2007)
11/30 P I'm Not There* (Haynes, 2007)
11/25 L.A.Confidential (Hanson, 1997)
11/21 The Princess Bride (Reiner, 1987)
11/20 Beowulf IMAX* (Zemeckis, 2007)
11/19 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Mitchell, 2001)
11/16 The Big Lebowski (Coen bros. 1998)
11/06 The Hitch-Hiker* (Lupino, 1953)
11/04 Quicksand* (Pichel, 1950)
11/02 P Enchanted* (Lima, 2007)
10/31 Red River* (Hawks, 1948)
10/29 Control* (Corbijn, 2007)
10/28 Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!* (Yauch, 2006)
10/26 True Romance (Scott, 1993)
10/25 Notorious* (Hitchcock, 1946)
10/24 Casablanca (Curtiz, 1943)
10/21 Impact* (Lubin, 1949)
10/21 Michael Clayton* (Gilroy, 2007)
10/20 Plan 9 from Outer Space* (Wood, 1959)
10/18 Dead Man* (Jarmusch, 1995)
10/16 Trapped* (Fleischer, 1949)
10/15 The Heartbreak Kid* (Farrelly bros., 2007)
10/14 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
10/12 The Dreamers (Bertolucci, 2003)
10/12 P Eastern Promises* (Cronenberg, 2007)
10/10 The Searchers* (Ford, 1956)
10/07 Closer (Nichols, 2004)
09/30 The Royal Tenenbaums - Prologue + first two chapters (Anderson, 2001)
09/28 Hotel Chevalier* (Anderson, 2007)
09/24 P The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford* (Dominik, 2007)
09/23 Dirty Pretty Things (1st 2/3) (Frears, 2002)
09/22 The Departed (Scorsese, 2006)
09/21 They Drive By Night* (Walsh, 1940) + Swingtime in the Movies* (Wilbur, 1938)
09/21 P The Brave One*(Jordan, 2007)
09/14 The Third Man (Reed, 1949)
09/08 Bande A Part* (Godard, 1964)
09/05 Wonderboys (Hanson, 2000)
08/29 The Simpsons Movie* (Silverman, 2007)
08/28 Spartan* (Mamet, 2004)
08/27 Ratatouille* (Bird, 2007)
08/27 Quo Vadis* (LeRoy, 1951)
08/26 The Lookout* (Frank, 2007)
08/23 L'Eclisse (Antonioni, 1962)
08/21 L'Eclisse* (Antonioni, 1962)
08/20 P The Bourne Ultimatum* (Greengrass, 2007)
08/12 2 Days in Paris (Delpy, 2007)
08/10 P A Guide to Recognizing your Saints* (Montiel, 2006)
08/08 Point Break* (Bigelow, 1991)
08/07 The Passenger - with Jack Nicholson commentary (Antonioni, 1975)
08/06 School of Rock* (Linklater. 2003)
08/06 Say Anything* (Crowe, 1989)
08/04 Cronaca di un amore* (Antonioni, 1950)
08/03 Rear Window* (Hitchcock, 1954)
08/02 Bride Of Frankenstein* (Whale, 1935)
07/31 Plein Soleil* (Clément, 1960)
07/30 Det Sjunde Inseglet/The Seventh Seal* (Bergman, 1957)
07/30 Clerks II* (Smith, 2006)
07/29 Witness for the Prosecution* (Wilder, 1957)
07/28 Don't Look Now* (Roeg, 1973)
07/28 Days of Heaven* (Malick, 1978)
07/27 Hot Fuzz* (Wright, 2007)
07/27 Glen or Glenda* (Wood, 1953)
07/26 The Sea* (Kormakur, 2002)
07/26 Fast Times at Ridgemont High* (Heckerling, 1982)
07/25 Reform School Girl* (Bernds, 1957)
07/25 Beat the Devil* (Huston, 1953)
07/24 P Once* (Carney, 2006)
07/24 P Hairspray* (Shankman, 2007)
07/22 Get Carter* (Kay, 2000)
07/21 Goodfellas* (Scorsese, 1990)
07/20 Heathers* (Lehmann, 1989)
07/18 Escape from Alcatraz* (Siegel, 1979)
07/18 The Fabulous Baker Boys* (Kloves, 1989)
07/17 He Walked By Night* (Werker & Mann, 1948)
07/16 Gerry* (van Sant, 2002)
07/16 The Big Heat* (Lang, 1953)
07/15 The Sheltering Sky* (Bertolucci, 1990)
07/13 The Gift* (Raimi, 2000)
07/12 Blowup (Antonioni,1966)
07/11 Death Proof (*)(Tarantino, 2007)
07/10 Crash* (Cronenberg, 1996)
07/09 Othello* (Welles, 1952)
07/08 Croupier* (Hodges, 1998)
07/06 Ocean's 13* (Soderbergh, 2007)
07/04 A Bout de Souffle* (Godard, 1960)
07/04 Whistle Stop* (Moguy, 1946)
07/02 The Player* (Altman, 1992)
07/01 Torn Curtain* (Hitchcock, 1966)
06/30 Masculin Feminin* (Godard, 1966)
06/29 Three Graduation films of the class of 2007*
06/24 The Devil Wears Prada* (Frankel, 2006)
06/22 La Stanza del Figlio* (Moretti, 2001)
06/10 Miami Vice* (Mann, 2006)
06/08 Babel* (Inarritu, 2006)
06/04 Grindhouse* (Rodriguez&Tarantino, 2007)
06/03 Bobby* (Estevez, 2006)
06/03 Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
06/01 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers* (Milestone, 1946)
05/31 The Departed* (Scorsese, 2006)
05/28 Das Leben Der Anderen* (Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
05/27 Thank you for Smoking* (Reitman, 2005)
05/24 The Good German* (Soderbergh, 2006)
05/19 Atame! (Tie me up! Tie me down!) * (Almodovar, 1990)
05/18 Yossi and Jagger* (Fox, 2002)
05/15 The Prestige* (Nolan, 2006)
05/14 Detour* (Ulmer, 1945)
05/03 The Cooler* (Kramer, 2003)
04/29 The Apartment* (Wilder, 1960)
04/20 El Laberinto del fauno/Pan's Labyrinth* (Del Toro, 2006)
04/19 Short Cuts* (Altman, 1993)
04/18 Belle de Jour* (Bunuel, 1967)
04/12 The 40 year old virgin* (Apatow, 2005)
04/11 Back to the Future III* (Zemeckis, 1990)
04/09 Jules et Jim (Truffaut, 1962)
04/06 Children of Men* (Cuaron, 2006)
04/03 Double Indemnity* (Wilder, 1944)
04/03 Dogma (Smith, 1999)
03/30 Picnic* (Logan, 1955)
03/28 Marie Antoinette* (Coppola, 2006)
03/27 Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004)
03/26 Scarlet Street* (Lang, 1945)
03/25 Stranger than Fiction* (Forster, 2006)
03/24 300* (first half) (Snyder, 2007)
03/18 A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan, 1951)
03/14 Donnie Darko (for about the 17th time) (Kelly, 2001)
03/12 Matador* (Almodovar, 1986)
03/04 Coffee and Cigarettes* (Jarmusch,2003)
02/26 Back to the Future II* (Zemeckis, 1989)
02/25 Closer (Nichols, 2005)
02/24 A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005)
02/21 The Virgin Suicides (Coppola, 1999)
02/17 La Môme* (Dahan, 2007)
02/13 The Queen* (Frears, 2006)
02/12 I Vitelloni* (Fellini, 1953)
02/11 Little Children* (Field, 2006)
02/07 Listened to Mallrats (Smith, 1995)
02/07 Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Almodovar, 1988)
02/06 Almost Famous* (Crowe, 2000)
02/05 A Prairie Home Companion* (Altman, 2006)
02/03 Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)
02/03 Lost in Translation (Coppola, 2003)
02/03 True Romance (Scott, 1993)
02/02 A Fistful of Dollars* (Leone, 1964)
02/01 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)
01/28 The Lake House* (Agresti, 2006)
01/21 Vincent* (Burton, 1982)
01/17 Various Edison Movies (Edison e.a., 1891-1922)
01/14 It happened one night (Capra, 1934)
01/13 Paris je T'aime * (Coen bros., van Sant, Salles, Doyle, Cuaron, Payne, Craven, Tykwer e.a. 2006)
01/11 The Graduate (Nichols, 1967)
01/10 A Scanner Darkly *(Linklater, 2006)
01/07 Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
01/07 The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)
01/02 Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)

Films with a * were seen for the first time
Bold-faced = seen in theatres
P(ress screening)