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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Why ‘The Green Hornet’ Doesn’t Quite Work

At this point in our movie-going careers, we’ve come to expect a certain something from a Seth Rogen movie, especially when the movie was co-written by Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, the duo that gave us Superbad and Pineapple Express. The Green Hornet, which opens this weekend, is one of those movies – except that it isn’t. It just wants to be. A Rogen/Goldberg production is defined by the freedom to say whatever it likes, which often results in outrageous and unpredictable humor. After delivering hit after unlikely hit to his studio, Rogen has become one of the more autonomous filmmakers in Hollywood. Along with the rest of Judd Apatow’s comedy clique, he’s almost solely responsible for the wave of R-rated-ness that’s dominated Hollywood of late. But, when it comes to a $120 million budget, even Seth Rogen has to play by the rules. Unfortunately – and almost certainly because of Sony’s crippling need to market it to 12 year olds – The Green Hornet tries to follow the Rogen/Goldberg playbook without ever really committing to it. And that’s a problem.

The Green Hornet would have made a nice companion piece to Kick-Ass, another action comedy about ordinary folk who become masked vigilantes in order to find a higher purpose. Kick-Ass held nothing back: The violence was bloody and visceral yet cartoonish, and the language was foul. It left us feeling giddy, a kids movie that kids were too young to see.

Conversely, The Green Hornet might go down in history as the movie with the highest of body count ratio to least amount of blood. Seth Rogen’s Britt Daniels, a hard-partying newspaper heir who eventually becomes the Green Hornet, is a big fan of the word “shit.” He says it when his coffee isn’t made right. It’s easy to imagine Rogen and Goldberg censoring themselves in between bong hits. But have you ever known anyone who says “shit” and doesn’t use its sister word, “fuck,” just as freely? Apparently Britt Daniels saves all his F-bombs for when he isn’t being chased down by an 18-wheeler.

The Green Hornet is not without its Rogian charms. There’s the troubled bromance, this time between Britt Daniels and his trusty, far more talented sidekick Kato (Jay Chou), and the she’s-way-out-of-his-league blonde, brought to you by Cameron Diaz’s brainy secretary, Lenore Case. There’s also special effects and stunts galore, which Sony hopes will be the film’s true selling point. Not to mention the critical 3D that was added in post production for that extra zing. But none of that makes up for the fact that this movie is lost in ratings purgatory, one foot in PG heaven, the other being sucked into R-rated hell. As it stands now, The Green Hornet is a mildly amusing, self-referential take on the superhero genre made by a couple of outsiders who are finding themselves just a tad too much on the inside.

Let’s Watch a Movie Trailer: ‘The Green Hornet’

When news first hit that Seth Rogen would be starring in a Green Hornet film helmed by Michael Gondry, the collective public reaction could be summed up as, “Whhaaaaaaaaaah?” It just didn’t make sense. Rogen is known for his hapless, goofy Apatow bro-coms and Gondry is known for his trippy indie movies. What business did either of them, let alone the two of them together, have turning in a superhero movie? As it turns out, all the business in the world, because the trailer is great.

You can sort of feel Rogen’s acting abilities being stretched—his father dies and the best he seems able to muster is a sad look into the distance—but, damn, this looks fun. Rogen is playing the same schlub he always plays, but, strangely, I’m not tired of it yet. Jay Chou looks great. Good job, Rogen and Gondry, you may have just pulled this one out of the hat. Belves all around!

Michel Gondry on His New Documentary and ‘The Green Hornet’

The Thorn in the Heart, a difficult and personal turn for director Michel Gondry, centers on his aunt Suzette, a retired teacher who lives in the isolated Cévennes region of France. Starting out as a chronicle of Suzette’s working life as an itinerant countryside schoolteacher in the 1960s and 70s, the documentary probes deeper into her uneasy relationship with her gay son Jean-Yves.

Low-key and probing, the documentary doesn’t seem like a Gondry film at first glance. We follow Suzette as she takes us on an archeological tour of her old schools, many now private homes (or occasionally, piles of rubble) and meets with former students. Alongside this regional history there are interviews with Jean-Yves, a shy forty-something model train enthusiast, on the subjects of his father’s death, his nervous breakdown, and his mother’s persistent disapproval. But it happens slowly. So much of the filmmaking process is included–fixing a broken dolly, prompting the actors to reenact events for the camera, scrutinizing the dailies–that Gondry seems to be letting us in on a rare uncontrolled production, as he works patiently and waits for the emotional content of his story to be revealed.

This is not to say he lets the film escape without being stamped with some of his signature whimsy. Gondry takes scheduled breaks from his heavy family story, once to donate some supercool “invisible clothing” to local schoolchildren, and later to re-build an outdoor cinema at an old classroom site (the crew screens the classic 1940s maritime drama Remorques). The animation work for 2006’s The Science of Sleep was executed at the Gondry studio in Cévennes, and he takes full advantage of the proximity, illustrating his subjects’ stories in stop-motion, goofing around with paper and clay to lighten the tone.

Though it’s a tough and personal turn for a filmmaker usually associated with fantasy, pop music and dreams, The Thorn in the Heart works well for what it is, perhaps by virtue of the strange and gorgeous landscape it’s shot in–the stormy dark canyons, and the pines and bare trees of the Cévennes. And just like in these bad-dream worlds, nothing’s really resolved for the Gondrys in this doc, though a lot of idiomatic territory is covered. “Jean-Yves is the thorn in my heart,” Suzette tells Michel. Her nephew can get the whole family together to make a film, he can screen old Super 8 home movies and ask probing questions, but he can’t fake a happy ending. To his credit, he doesn’t try. Here he is on the challenges of shooting a documentary, the France that inspires him, and his next picture, the Christoph Waltz’s low confidence.

Did you start out intending to make a film about Suzette’s relationship with her son? No. I wanted to make a film about Suzette and her history and her professional life. That’s what she wanted, what she expected to do. She would not talk about her son or the fact that he was homosexual, and it took me four years get her to this place. When we started shooting, she wanted me to go there, because she asked him to come work as a cook, and then we started to interview him as a [student] because it was hard to find [former students of Suzette’s. And then we saw that the drama was there and we had to go in that direction.

Was difficult to get her to go there? She didn’t want to! She had many interesting things to say about him, but she didn’t want me to film it and that was a big problem. It was not manipulation, it was just persistence on my side and trust on her side. She felt a little betrayed, but it was a hard blow for her when she saw the film finished. I think overall it’s been a process that she’s on better terms with her son than she was before.

Do you find that as a director when you make the shift to documentary from fiction, do you make an adjustment in your filming style? There is differences where you don’t [begin] with the story, but there is a similarity where you have to find a way to make the subject you are shooting forget about the camera and lose control. If you really want to know who they are, you have to find a way to break that. The beauty of the documentary is that you really don’t know what you are looking for, and you want to find something, that’s for sure. Whatever you find you have to accept it and go deeper in that direction. If you know exactly what you want to find you are going to twist people until they tell you exactly what you want them to say, and it’s not honest.

At one point, Suzette says, “Even if I don’t want to do something, I’ll do it, it’s a very Cévennes attitude.” Can you help American audiences understand the Cévennes? It’s a mountain region that is also a national park, so it’s very preserved. People are very enclosed because it’s very high and has a very long winter. There is definitely something that could be a little frightening about it. But it’s beautiful. I love this country, it’s very harsh. That, plus the fact that she grew up eighty years ago. For instance, she had to walk ten miles every morning and evening to go to school, that was perfectly normal for her. That’s a different way of life.

Whose idea was it to rebuild the outdoor cinema? I think that probably the Director of Photography, who was very fond of filmmaking and wanted to gather people. I thought it would be contrived, and it was really on the brink of being a disaster, because it was about to rain and it was cold, but people really loved it. He brought people back together. He put many things together and relived this moment, and you could see the emotion underneath these people because they could really appreciate the experience.

How did the animation you incorporated help you tell the story? It started because I thought it would be nice for people that participated in the film to have a little moment. I think it was for me, the opportunity to do something I really like. I think it’s a breathing time for the audience, because there are a lot of heavy moments. We need some recreation in both senses of the term. Like in French, recreation is the same word for recess. That was really the recess for the audience as well.

How did you get the band Anvil involved in The Green Hornet? I was invited by the director to this screening, and I saw the documentary and liked it so much. That’s an example of the type of film I like, to really take the time to be with people and you capture the most amazing moments. And I think that’s was the best thing I have seen in recent years, and so they came and played in front of the screen and it was magical. I don’t like heavy metal, but it doesn’t matter.

What can you tell me about Christoph Waltz’s character? He is a super villain with some faults.

What kind of faults? He’s not very confident.

Michel Gondry to Direct ‘Green Hornet,’ Join Apatow Clique

Seth Rogen’s upcoming Green Hornet film just moved up at least five spots on a lot of people’s “most anticipated movies of 2010” lists. That’s because according to The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, a.k.a. the Trades, Michel Gondry has been tapped to rescue the troubled project. Previously, Hong Kong superstar Steven Chow was attached to direct, but he abruptly left the project, sparking speculation that it was being banished to development hell (Chow is still signed to play the Hornet’s sidekick, Kato).

For those of you (and I’m thinking of a blogger over at /Film) who think Gondry — whose previous efforts include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and last year’s disappointing Be Kind Rewind — is an odd choice because he lacks the run-and-gun mainstream sensibilities that a summer tentpole “needs,” recall Rogen’s choice of David Gordon Green as director of Pineapple Express. Green can out-arthouse anyone, but his artistic temperament complimented Rogen’s comedy and flair for improv, rather than overshadowed them. Oh, and also recall Sam Raimi directing Spider-Man, Christopher Nolan directing Batman, and Jon Favreau directing Iron Man. Those guys weren’t obvious choices either, and look how those turned out.

Seth Rogen, Hollywood’s Latest Green Hornet?

In the ’90s, George Clooney was slated to play the Green Hornet, known to nerds the world over as Britt Reid, a newspaper heir and hand-to-hand combat aficionado. In 2004, Kevin Smith was set to write the screenplay, which would now star Jake Gyllenhaal. The project was shelved. It makes sense, then, that the new hero of the lauded comic book franchise will be… Seth Rogen? The Knocked Up star is reported to play Reid and will co-write the screenplay with his Superbad pal Evan Goldberg. No word yet on how horny the Hornet will be.