Michel Gondry Talks Animating Noam Chomsky With ‘Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?’

When it comes to French filmmaker Michel Gondry, the wonder of his work lies in the fact there’s always something different hiding up his sleeve—or rather, tucked in one of the many fascinating pockets of his brain. As the visually imaginative and emotionally-charged creative force behind films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, he’s also given us countless short films, music videos, and documentaries that highlight the myriad facets of his world.

Whether he’s crafting romantically painful surrealist masterpieces, Hollywood studio pictures, or independent collaborations, Gondry’s oeuvre always veers towards the unexpected and searches into the artistic unknown. Last year, when I sat down with him and the cast of his film The We and the I,  he told me that, “I like popular movies, I think they don’t have to be big, and small movies don’t have to be independent for sort of elite.” And with his latest endeavor, we see another side to the acclaimed director through his incredible talent and affinity for animation.

With Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? Gondry creates an innovative documentary about the philosopher, linguist, and anti-war activist Noam Chomsky. Through a series of interviews and conversations, the film brings us into the Chomsky’s ideals and theories, while revealing the life and work of the “father of modern linguistics”— shedding light on the mysteries of language and its emergance. But rather than give us a straight portrait, Gondry brings us on a ride through his mind as well, with beautifully unique hand drawn animations and illustrations that allow us to understand Chomsky’s vision in a brilliant new way.

And before the film’s premiere last weekend, I got the chance to reunite with Gondry to discuss where he and his subject intersect, the healing process of the making the film, and the direct approach of animation.

For all the different projects and kinds of films, how did this come to you. For all the different kinds of films and all the projects that you are a part of, how did this film come to you? 
Well, I didn’t have a preconceived idea, and when I met Noam for the first time I didn’t know I would do this, it just came later. But I was always interested in science and scientific explanation and graphics, and I thought that this would be the perfect match with Noam Chomsky. So after visiting him, maybe four times, I suggested we do an abstract animation—More his scientific work than his political work.

So was it working with Noam or the idea of exploring animated film that first sparked your interest?
I got the idea before I met him to do something scientific with my abstract style of animation. I had done a little film with a friend of mine who is a physicisit. He told me how fire works and I did the illustration, so I had that in mind. But when I made the Chomsky, I didn’t think of doing anything it just came later. But I always wanted to do something between animation and scientific approach.

Watching the film is an interesting experience in itself, being so captured and engaged in the drawings but also listening intently to Noam speak. It’s using a muscle in your brain to connect to both the visual and intellectual element of the film. 
Yeah, and when I started using this technique, it was for video a few years before. I remember listening on tape toThe Stranger by Camus—and the length of the book was probably five or six hours on tape—and I was corresponding to the one shot I did of a growing drawing. And when I was watching the result of the animation, I remembered the book in fast-forward, like full speed, like all the chapters were attached to the shape of the drawing. It was just an abstract shape that grew line after line, and I thought it was there was something going on on an abstract level with the perception. And I thought that if I took Noam’s voice and played it while I was drawing, I could have some connection that is sort of unconscious.


When you were interviewing him did you already start drawing or have ideas formulating while that was going on? Sometimes I got some ideas and images, but most of the time it came after. When I was interviewing him I was really trying to keep up in his thinking and trying to intervene and do my job as an interviewer. And the first image I had was a tree—and of course a tree is a tree, so I started with that and did the first sort of test and it was very satisfying to watch.

Did he know right away that you’d be animating the film? 
Yeah because I showed him an animation I had done for the singer, Cody ChesnuTT. So he sort had a vague idea, but he does a lot of interviews, so when he saw the first half an hour he was really intrigued. I believe it’s the first time his scientific work has been illustrated with graphics and I think he was sensitive to that.

And you were working on this a lot while editing The Green Hornet?
Yeah, from the end of Green Hornet to like six months ago—which was also while finishing my previous movie Mood Indigo. So I was working on it on and off all the time in LA and probably a bit in New York and Paris.

Did you find that this was a nice creative exercise away from the other work you were doing and something refreshing to work on? 
Oh yeah, it was a complete relief and getaway from the other jobs. I couldn’t wait sometimes to get back home—even if I had already done a twevle hour day of shooting or editing, I would still spend three or four hours on this. It was a brain resting; it was really a great relief.

Which is slightly odd because this is so much about thought and yet it was able to put you at ease. 
Yeah, but say I would do a little sketch like this or I knew I was supposed to go from this place to a place, I had to find the transition that would grow. It’s very specific, but I could decide anywhere I wanted and I could think about it in the car or on a lunch break. So when I come home, I already had a plan in mind of how it would go and I would be really exited to do it. This was sort of effortless—not always but most of it. I had a great feeling of freedom doing it.


You and Noam both have a very interesting perception of the world and how we experience thought and feeling. Did you find there were similarities between the two of you that drew you to him? 
Well, there is some common territory. Of course I don’t see myself at the same level—trying to keep up in the conversation was very challenging—but I think that’s why I liked him as a figure. He has this scientific background and as a graphic artist, especially when I was in France, to have this connection with science was different because art is more in some ways connected to literature. Like in France when you want to go into high school, there are schools who have a specialization in graphic art and they really push you into literature. And literature is a great form of art, but for me it was a different type of psychology and type of student who would go in the literature branch. They were much more outspoken and dismissed science as something a little too complicated and not so useful . But I found this high school when I was 15 or 16 that was not necessarily for literature. So when I met Noam, even though he was coming from linguistics—you would assume it’s closer to literature—I find that his scientific world has something very geometric about it. And that was his approach to language, he found mathematical patterns and correspondence to the language, and he talked a lot of genetics, and subjects that really interested me. So we had that in common; although I don’t of course have as much knowledge as he has.

And with all this talk of linguistics, did the language barrier between the two of you ever come in the way? 
Yeah that was the irony of it. But it didn’t create a distance; it was actually the opposite in a way. He didn’t mind explaining a word to me because of my problem to translate, and sometimes it was very naive. I confused “yield” with “eel” and so it shows how my mind completely drifts away from the subject. So I was very honest and had to ask him about some words I didn’t understand so I could follow, because I was completely left behind. But he never rolled his eyes. He was patient, and if I had come from a more sophisticated linguistic or philosophical background, he would have been much more dismissive.

As an artist I’d imagine you think in a more abstract way in comparison to his more concrete ideas. Did you ever find that was a clash? 
No, that’s where I think I disagree with that. At school my main strength—although I didn’t go very far—was geometry. That was something I understood and responded very well to. Even if I did not listen in the classroom, the teacher would put me to the blackboard and ask me to solve a problem and I could do it—which was one of the branches we studied I figured it out and I was very interested in. So it was another connection with him, and I found symbols to represent the language because he would take the language and find ways to compare it to geometrical function. For instance, my animation. So I draw a shape and would make it grow and within that shape there is a similar shape and that grows again like a fractal. And this aspect I find very appropriate and find myself quite at home. And although I was not sure I understood everything, the abstract of the animation allowed me to keep working even if there was some concepts I was not sure I had fully understood.

In making this film, was there anything you really learned about yourself as an artist and filmmaker? And in working on so many different projects, is there a medium you’ve found yourself most drawn to?
Well my previous movie had some animation and people found it too invasive, too much coming from everywhere. And I thought maybe I didn’t believe in animation anymore. But it was really hard to feel this way because I am coming from animation and some of my biggest influences are animators or directors who worked in animation mostly. But doing this film with Noam and seeing the result of how it was coherent, made me feel good again about animation. So it was sort of a healing process.

You speak in the beginning of the film about how animation strips away the artifice of a documentary or a film because the audience knows what they’re seeing and it’s more direct. 
Yes, it’s a mirror image of the brain in a way and it’s the most direct representation of an idea. When you work with actors you have an idea in the beginning and then it’s completely turned, not necessarily in a bad way, but when you do animation it really reflects what you meant because there’s no in between. That’s something I always liked in animation—it’s like a jazz musician that plays a solo, the instrument is a elongation of the arm, which is a reflection of the brain. Like if I move my finger the way they move, it’s the muscle here and here but I have no perception of that, I just look at my finger and make them move. And when you have an instrument, then the instrument becomes the brain it and I think animation has this quality. So it extends from your body to connect your brain to the result.


From Dennis Hopper to Terrence Malick, Here Are the Films You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in NYC

I don’t know about you, but I fully intend on spending my weekend curled up with a box of Junior Mints in a darkened theatre. It’s been a long week thus far and with the myriad premieres and screenings going on over the new few days, you really have no excuse to not get yourself into a cinema. From Antonio Campos and Shane Carruth’s stunning sophomore efforts to Terrence Malick’s latest poem of emotions, to the wonder of Dennis Hopper and the debut of Darren Aronofsky, there’s a certainly a diverse mix of films to see. So to get you ready, I’ve compiled the best of what’s playing around the city this weekend—take a look and go buy yourself some candy and/or popcorn. Enjoy.



IFC Center

Simon Killer
Beyond the Hills
Gimme the Loot
Room 237
The We and the I
Upstream Color
2001: A Space Odyssey
House (Hausu)
The Shining



Landmark Sunshine

Spice World (in 35mm!)
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Sapphires
My Brother the Devil


Nitehawk Cinema

Easy Rider
Room 237
Spring Breakers
Pat Garrett and Billy
Bad News Bears



Film Society Lincoln Center

Room 237
From Up on Poppy Hill
No Place on Earth
Stones in the Sun
Death for Sale
My Fair Lady




Museum of the Moving Image

To the Wonder
The Face You Deserve
The Headless Woman
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait




Somebody Up There Likes Me
Castle in the Sky
My Neighbor Totoro
Princess Mononoke



Angelika Film center

No Place on Earth



Village West Cinema

On the Road
6 Souls
Lotus Eaters
Ginger & Rosa




Me You and Everyone We Know
Laws of Gravity
Viktor und Viktoria
Winter’s Bone

Sitting Down with Director Michel Gondry and the Cast of His New Film ‘The We and the I’

Michel Gondry has always been a filmmaker with a very distinct vision. Whether he’s crafting romantically painful surrealist masterpieces like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or "swede" films like Be Kind Rewind or big Hollywood titles like The Green Hornet, he manages to stay true to his artistic mores and uphold the importance of what film is truly about. "I like popular movies, I think they don’t have to be big and small movies don’t have to be independent for sort of elite," says Gondry, whose latest effort,  the high school drama The We and the I shows us fresh side to the director.

The film is a collaboration that took place over four years between Gondry and a Bronx-based community and arts center called The Point, which fosters a creative and supportive atmosphere for youth to explore their passions and work to build something together. The We and the I stars a host of kids who saw The Point as their home base growing up and through a series of workshops with Gondry—spanning multiple years— they have crafted the story of a group of high schoolers riding the bus home on their last day of school. What emerges is something unique, powerful, and genuine that speaks to how we change ourselves in relation to those around us seen through a coming of age tale.

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to sit down with Gondry, Kelly who works ofr The Point, and his inspiring and intelligent young cast to talk about how they all came together, the experience of exposing their real emotions on camera, and how the The We and the I has changed them all.

Can you guys tell me a little bit about The Point?
Kelly: So basically we’re a community development corporation, and we’re all about arts and culture and community development. We have after school programs, we do a lot of environmental work in the neighborhood of Hunt’s Point, and our biggest gift is our facility. We have a theater, a dance studio, and then tons of programs—everything from circus to visual arts to black and white photography. We’re a place where community and creativity connect. We were happy that this project came to us.
Michael: I’ve been at The Point for four years and I must say it helped me be the person I am. They heavily got me more involved in my community and helped me see more issues I had never seen before. It also helped me network and gave me the connections I need. Even though I’m not currently going to The Point, I’m still involved. If I ever need assitence, I know I can rely on them because they’re like my family, even when you leave there you’re still family. They make you feel loved and welcome, and they’re there to provide you with all the resources you need to keep going ahead in life.
Big T: I think if you go to The Point for a full week, you’re going to feel like you’re at home.

Michel, how did you become involved with The Point and had you been working on creating a story like this for a while?
Michel Gondry: 
I had this concept in mind for years and I thought it was time for me to do it. I had written the story over a small script, like 25 pages and I was living in New York and wanted to do it in New York and I tried other schools but they were very afraid of trying anything; they seemed to struggle so much with safety and didn’t want to take extra work. So we finally found The Point and that was completely obvious immediately. And that was great,  so I showed my movie Be Kind Rewind and we just talked about it and did some workshops and everybody signed on. And we didn’t have a casting process, that’s something that I’m really—not exactly proud but happy about—the concept, and the first 35 or 40 people to sign onto the project would be on the bus. And then in this certain people in the group would be more or less prominent as the story unfolds. And this process happened over the months and years, and I think there are people on the bus who have barely any lines but they didn’t feel excluded. So this is very much in the spirit of The Point—it’s not about competition, it’s about participation.

So how long were you workshopping for the film for?
Laidychen: Like four years almost.

Well that’s really interesting because you’re at a time in your life when you’re changing so much, so keep doing this as you change really allows for a lot of issues to be explored—for all of you.
Some of the stories that are in the movie are based on stories that happened to them right at the beginning, especially for Brandon. That was really tough for them to reenact because they had grown up and felt a little silly. And so sometimes I let things go and sometimes it’s really good in the story and I have to put them in front of themselves. But the story between Louis and Brandon, that was one of the best surprises I ever had in shooting because they were playing each other’s part.
Brandon: Yeah, it kinda got switched up because at first it was me playing his role of being the cheater and something went on on the bus when we were like on a break. The cameras were off and we were just sitting there and Michel had seen Louis coming to me and saying all this stuff and he came with the camera and wanted us to talk about what like what we were talking about and we didn’t want to and then it finally came out, and when it came out it became really emotional because it was a real moment, it wasn’t scripted. So that’s where you get the tears from, and then he did ask me if I was comfortable with that moment actually being in the movie. I was okay with it because people are going to see this and somebody’s going to relate to it in some type of way. 
MG: It’s interesting because when Brandon has this moment, everybody broke in tears in the bus, expect me because I was focusing on capturing the moment.

Did you have the narrative arc for the film planned out?
Yeah. I had the story on like 25 pages with maybe between five and ten characters and then I met The Point and all of the kids and we did a lot interviews. I had screenwriters Jeff and Paul working on the interviews and writing the screenplay and then after that we tried to tailor that story to match the grid I had written. But then while shooting they could improvise too. So it’s all of those layers combined.

And had you guys been familiar with Michel’s work before?
His last work I’d seen was Be Kind Rewind and I really started liking him because it was a community thing that you create your character and be in the movie and I thought that was amazing. So then we did this movie and worked with the people that worked on the Be Kind Rewind production team and it was like wow, that’s so much fun.
Meghan: I was a fan of Eternal Sunshine and I kind of witnessed the elements of surrealism and putting that stuff on camera and getting to see it played out in real life. It was so cool to work with him and see that process and getting that sort of dreamlike sequence of events in film. 

Michel, you were working on other films while wokshopping this. Did that effect the process at all?
Yeah, that’s why the process too so long. I went to do The Green Hornet.

How was it working on something like that and then coming back here and doing something so intimate?
Very exciting. I remember being so exhausted because every minute we had in the bus could be a minute we could use for shooting. There were some technical aspects to deal with but most of the time I was having to focus on the story and that was one of the hardest shoots. But for this reason, when we shot about three weeks,

And how did you guys find spending three weeks on a crowded bus?

Were you getting claustrophobic or sick of each other?
When we had mics on the AC couldn’t go on and then we’d have to fake that we weren’t hot so it was like, okay, smile—
Meghan: It was a ton of fun but me and Laidy had this thing where we got motion sickness a lot because the bus was constantly moving, so I now know a thousand different ways to prevent motion sickness. We really learned the definition of “a long day."
Laidychen: I found myself sleeping most of the time in the bus just to try to mellow out a bit so when I would have to be focused I was awake but it was so fun. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Meghan: It’s one thing to shoot an ordinary film but the circumstances were just so interesting because our set was moving all the time so as we ran into little incidents here and there they were coming up with solutions and we were just observing, and I feel like I soaked everything in like a sponge. It was a very cool learning experience.

And I’m sure this way of shooting and the amount of time together really bonded allof you.
Michael: In the workshops we were all divided and we had our cliques we were attached to and when they saw it on camera, they wanted to get us out of our comfort zone and put us with people we wouldn’t normally be with. But the bulk of it came from shooting on the bus all day and learning everybody’s story and where they came from and why they stand out or are closed off or won’t disclose certain things to people, and that kind of just brought us closer. And off the set we always got together and had a good time.
Meghan: We worked on the film for four years, so that was my entire high school career. And theres’ something about this group, we could be separated like ten years from now and you could be like, okay guys get together you’re going to do a sequel where you guys are on the train now and I feel like we would not miss a beat and talk to each other like we’ve been best friends. So getting to know someone over that long of a time really has a last impact on all of us.
Kelly: Also, Michel and everyone were so great about making this a sustainable process. They could have shot anywhere but they chose to use The Point as homebase. It was amazing for the community to see something so cool happen in their neighborhood.

In terms of the film’s flashbacks or cut away sequences, those are the only moments outside of the bus—why did you choose to give those a less polished, more handheld feel. 
Look, they all have their phones with them and they’re all on their phones right now and its been like that since the beginning. So this imagery and this look and thinking about the way that they use their smart phones, it’s part of everybody’s culture. So it was convenient because it would sort of give a specific look for scenes that are not in the bus, and so I could say the whole movie is in the bus and everything that’s not is shot with those small cameras or cell phones. I remember Michael got a text message—I think your Auntie passed away—and you got a text message while we were shooting a scene telling you. But that type of communication is  something I didn’t experience growing up, of course, because I am from a different generation but it’s very important. And we were talking earlier about how the passing of their friend Elijah, the scene where the news comes through text message and how their life is shaped by information coming through those machines.

What I found really interesting and enjoyable was that the relationships between everyone, they weren’t specific to just this one community or group of kids, it all felt very universal.
Laidychen: It’s like when you see a group of rowdy kids on a bus and you’re just like ugh; everyone at first is just like yeah, I’ve been on a bus before, so what who wants to see a movie like this? And then in the middle you start stripping people down and you start seeing other sides and by the end reality starts hitting everybody, and in a sense they’re kind of growing up a little bit. And so they’re leaving that bus like wow, something just changed and I’m going to have to walk out of here and deal with it and I don’t have no one around me so you have to deal with a sense of being alone and growing up and being independent.
Big T: That movie’s too real, man. That last scene, the first time I saw it I cried because Elijah, he’s like my little brother so if you see that you’re going to feel bad and then knowing what that came from because I knew Glen personally too, he was really cool—I don’t want to cry now—but he was an awesome person and he got stabbed for no reason so, it was strong, it was real. It hurt a lot but it was perfect at the same time, you know? And that’s what I like about that last scene, I find it really significant to the movie.
Laidychen: That last scene, it’s relatable to everyone because most of us have lost someone really dear to us so, when they tell us to act it out we could put ourselves back into the place where we heard about the news and could easily feel the same emotion. And I feel like that’s the same when someone watches a movie, they put themselves in a moment.

Michel, did you find there’s a freedom in being able to make films like this while also being someone who makes work that’s totally different?
MG: The Green Hornet allowed me to reach out to a broader audience, which I enjoy. I get paid enough so I can go on and do projects for which I don’t get paid, so it’s a good balance. I like popular movies, I think they don’t have to be big and small movies don’t have to be independent for sort of elite, so it fits me very well. And in a way, when I left them for a bit and came back, I had a pride to give them the DVDs of The Green Hornet.

What did yo guys think the first time you saw the movie completed?
I cringed because I see my face so big, but other than that, now that I’ve seen it a whole bunch of times it’s better.
Laidychen: It’s weird seeing yourself on a big screen  but I pretend it’s not me and I pretend I don’t know anyone in the film. But it’s cool and it teaches me not to judge any film because there’s a lot of work to be put into one small scene, so I don’t underestimate any budget film; I give them all credit.
Meghan: You can’t watch yourself in a movie and be objective about it; you watch other movies and make other little criticisms here and there but instead of actually focusing on the movie, I remember more memories from shooting. So it was really fun to get ot do that and I watched the movie twice in its entirety and it’s cool to see something you worked on so hard, something we all worked on.

Did you have any idea how much attention the film would get or that it would going to these big festivals?
 No no, not at all but we stayed humble.
Michael: Even though we knew there was going to be a big premiere, we didn’t think that we would change. We did a movie, we’re proud of it, and we’re still going to be the same people at the end of the day. We’re not going to let the success get to our heads, we’ll still be the same people even after this is all over.
Laidychen: And nobody turns into a diva overnight.
Big T: But the same time, it’s still a big reality shock. I was on Instagram recently and somebody said one of my quotes from the movie and I was like no, that’s not real.
Kelly: From the vantage point of not being in the film directly but associated with it, I had to say during the making we were petrified because a huge part of it all is letting go completely. So we had no idea what to expect, but we had faith and respect for Michel as an artist. I was petrified because the Bronx and the South Bronx, in terms of film and media in general, it’s very rare that we get respected. I didn’t know what to feel; I was anxious. I watched the movie by myself first and at the end I was eleated; I was crying and jumping up and down in my room. I know this is a classic, it’s a classic, it’s like The Breakfast Club but real art. And I thought it was such a beautiful opportunity for people to really see the beauty and the genius of the South Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, and so much out there that I was happy was represented well and that they will have something, and all the kids in the Bronx will have something to be proud of. No one’s slinging dope in it, and if you’re born and raised in the Bronx you know like, yeah it’s a part of the life but it’s not who we are. So I think this does that justice.
MG: It’s funny, my neighbor from Brooklyn plays the racist lady and she was kind of racist in the beginning, but more interestingly, for her living in Brooklyn, the Bronx was like a place you should never go. I find that from the Bronx, you guys are the same about Brooklyn.
Kids: Oh, we don’t go to Brooklyn.
MG: I remember Raymond, we had a scene where he’s waiting for Michael at the subway and he didn’t want us to frame the number of the train.
Raymond: Oh, it was the 7 train. I was like why you putting the 7 train on there, man? I’m from the Bronx we stick to the green numbers.

Do you find that you’re a different director when working in this sort of environment where it’s more immediate and with non-actors?
Yes. I think I’m permeable in general; always when I go to do a film, I try to absorb everything I can outside and from people around me, I think it allows me to make a different film. But when I see how these people are so committed and artistic and how they really are when you here them talking about The Point or the Bronx, that’s something maybe I don’t encounter in so many places. I always try to see what people have in common in different cultures and locations and I think that’s probably one of the reasons why we didn’t thrive on stereotypes by going to the Bronx. I came with the story, and on the other hand, seeing this commitment to a place where you are living is a new experience. That’s something specific to this location and even more, gives me even more of this feeling of being proud to be part of this community. It’s not everywhere, from my background I don’t have any pride. My background is very middle and average and so I don’t feel the necessity to express belonging to this background. But I’ve learned in working and shooting documentaries, some communities need the sense of community because of the difficulty that they may encounter. I always thought that the idea of community was exclusive, but then when I started to observe I realized that they were a home and not closed to the outside world.

BlackBook Exclusive: Watch a Clip From Michel Gondry’s New Film ‘The We and the I’

Director Michel Gondry is known for his diverse style of filmmaking. He manages to transition from surrealistic heart-wrenching masterpieces like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to "swede" films like Be Kind Rewind, and big Hollywood titles like The Green Lantern, without losing his artisitc sensibility and understanding of what the medium is truly about. But it’s his latest effort that shows a completely different side to the director, with the high school drama The We and the I

Telling the story of a group of high schoolers in the Bronx, the film was developed over the course of several workshops—spanning over four years—at a Bronx-based community and arts center called The Point. What emerges is something wholly unique, inspiring, and full of life. Gondry gives us a genuine yet experimental raw portrayal of what it means to be coming of age and how we interact and change ourselves in relation to chose around us. 

I got the chance to sit down with Gondry and the kids this morning and it was incredible to see how passionate and intelligent they all are, making the film—which premiered at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes last May—one of Gondry’s finest—albiet very, very different from his milieu. And now, we’re pleased to share an exclusive clip from the film featuring Michael Brodie and Teresa Lynn, taking place towards the latter half of the film.

Watch the clip below, check back here later in the week for our interview with Michel Gondry and the cast of The We and the I, and see the film in theaters this Friday. Enjoy.


Exclusive Scene from Michel Gondry’s "The We and The I" – In Theaters 3/8 from BOND Film on Vimeo.








Watch the Trailer for Michel Gondry’s New Film ‘Mood Indigo’

Dear Michel Gondry: I will forgive you for The Green Hornet and Be Kind Rewind because I still watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind once a week and know that all my tears are forever validated. However, I was really looking forward to your next film, Mood Indigo—thinking perhaps it would be less surrealist twee a la Science of Sleep and more painstakingly dream-layered a la Eternal Sunshine. I mean, with a synopsis as "a woman suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs," my mind is inundated with Victorian skeletons bursting with flowers crawling and wrapping around a ribcage—which sounds great to me. And with a cast of delicate, beautiful creatures such as Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris, I was so hopeful, you know?

Yes, this trailer is in French and my tongue/ear has proved a bit rusty, so I suppose I cannot really grasp the full extent of the dialogue on this first go around, and although the trailer seems lovely like a Parisian spring afternoon where you’ve had a bit too much wine and your only concern is the way the clouds move as the wind ripples through the hair of the lover sleeping on your chest is lovely, but what in all of the world made you choose that song—"Hey Ho" by The Lumineers. Really now, Michel. I suppose you couldn’t have predicted how that ridiculous tune would work its way into American ears this award season with such force, but still it just doesn’t seem fitting in the slightest. Throw some Francoise Hardy up in there, get Jon Brion to compose a gently delightful little diddy—anything other than this song that, thanks to commercials popping up everywhere, immediately conjures up images of Jennifer Lawrence running in a windbreaker screaming, ‘HEY," cut to Bradley Cooper doing some kind of slow motion ritualistic bird dance at an Eagles game, cut to giant type that reads, "NOMINATED FOR EVERY ACADEMY AWARD EVER!"

So I am sorry Michel, but I am going to need another trailer, please. I know it’s there somewhere. Doesn’t even have to be in English, let’s just put "Hey Ho" on the bench for a little while. Thanks in advance and thank you for every moment of Eternal Sunshine. I will now proceed to watch that trailer twenty times.


Watch The Trailer for Michel Gondry’s ‘The We And The I’

Michel Gondry became an indie favorite thanks to movies like 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the weird, offbeat 2008 flick Be Kind Rewind. When his latest film, last year’s offbeat superhero Seth Rogan vehicle The Green Hornet, was released, however, a resounding shrug was felt. Even his recent, twee take on Taxi Driver got more love. 

It looks like Gondry’s next project, however, is a back on track. The trailer for The We and The I, which will premiere at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, dropped today. The movie seems to follow some Bronx high school students on the bus home from the last day of school. From what we can tell, it’s a coming-of-age type tale that takes place aboard one of nature’s most dreaded vessels: a bus full of rowdy kids.

And while rumors about that there’s some secret plot to the film that the trailer is avoiding, what we’re seeing—even if it’s not as revolutionary as some of Gondry’s earlier work is heralded to be—looks a lot less painful than two hours of a spandex-clad Rogan fighting crime.

Watch Michel Gondry’s Lo-Fi Remake of ‘Taxi Driver’

In Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, Mos Def and Jack Black produce homemade recreations of Hollywood blockbusters where multi-million dollar special effects are replaced with rudimentary arts and crafts. You got a sense while watching it that Gondry was more at home directing those lo-fi reproductions than he was with the rest of the movie that surrounded them. It’s no surprise then that Gondry directed and starred in a wonderful low-budget version of Taxi Driver that was played before the French premiere of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.

Indiewire pointed us to the homage, and we highly recommended you watch it here. It’s in French, but there are English subtitles. Besides, if you have ever seen Taxi Driver, you will know exactly what scenes are being re-crafted through the eyes of a movie lover who has nothing more than some cardboard, paint, and colored pencils–each used in ways you won’t expect.

We wish Gondry would direct these kinds of remakes more often, which is the same exact feeling we got after Be Kind Rewind. Until then, we’ll just watch this Taxi Driver short on repeat.

The Best Lines from the Worst ‘Green Hornet’ Reviews

We’re big fans of both Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry, so it pained us to admit yesterday that The Green Hornet did not live up its potential. A superhero movie written by and starring Seth Rogen, and directed by the madcap mind of Michel Gondry, could have, should have, been great. But if we thought we were being hard on the film, it was nothing compared to the onslaught of negative reviews the movie is getting today. Everything – the direction, the performances, the script, the 3-D – is getting torn to shreds by the country’s top critics. But if you’re not involved in the production, reading bad reviews can actually be pretty enjoyable, as critics try to one-up each other with inventive expressions of a movie’s terribleness. We didn’t think it was that bad. After the jump, some highlights of the lowlights.

Roger Ebert: The director of this half-cooked mess is Michel Gondry, whose “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is as good as this one is bad. USA Today: Equally hard to comprehend is why supporting-actor Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (the unforgettable polyglot Nazi in Inglourious Basterds) would take the part of a caricatured crime boss. It must be the Oscar curse at work. Boston Globe: If the movie works for you at all, you’ll never look at The Dark Knight the same again. Entertainment Weekly: Maybe those clumsy 3-D glasses are meant to let moviegoers mimic the superhero mask-wearing experience? At any rate, they let moviegoers pay more for a ticket. Chicago Tribune: These two bicker over Britt’s temporary secretary (Cameron Diaz, in a role that makes you realize how valuable Gwyneth Paltrow was in the first Iron Man by comparison). The Village Voice: Initially conceived by Kevin Smith, Rogen’s Green Hornet is not the first facetious costumed crime-fighter, but neither Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man nor Will Smith’s Hancock were as doggedly unattractive as this tubby denizen of Upper Slobovia.

Lindsay’s Freedom & the Sundance Festival Kick Off January’s Key Events

January 3—Lindsay Lohan is released from rehab, no joke. (Because aren’t Lindsay jokes played out by now?) 5—Cirque Du Soleil hopes to un-stiffen those upper lips when its limber show, Totem, premieres at London’s Royal Albert Hall. 10—Although we wouldn’t really call Matt LeBlanc an actor, he plays one on TV! Showtime’s Episodes premieres tonight, in which Joey portrays a version of himself.

11—The Salvador Dali Museum gets a $35-million new home in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the sun is so hot it could melt a clock. 12—Baltimore MC Rye Rye, apparently the queen of redundancies, celebrates her debut album, Go! Pop! Bang!, released yesterday. 14— Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen release The Green Hornet, a movie about a superhero who erases the memories of chicks in an effort to bang them. 16—At the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards, Robert De Niro receives the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award for his distinguished work in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, that film with Eddie Murphy, and the other one about the cabbie. 19—The Los Angeles Art Show and London Art Fair both kick off today. They’re essentially the same thing, except Ed Hardy only sponsors one of them. 20—The Sundance Film Festival begins. It’s the only film festival with more snow on the streets than in the bathrooms. 21—Baltimore Restaurant Week begins. It’s like NYC Restaurant Week—without all the great restaurants! 28—Gus Van Sant releases Restless, a documentary about how audiences felt watching Gerry. 29—Sorry, supper fans: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal opens at London’s Mandarin Oriental.