Science of Sleep, The (France; 105 min.)


directed by: Michel Gondry
starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Miou-Miou
La Science des Rêves
 
Bruce says: "Gael Garcia Bernal (Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, BAD EDUCATION, AMORES PERROS, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, and THE CRIME OF FATHER AMARO) has extraordinary talent. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP is a wise choice for his resume, literally a showcase for demonstrating his ability to communicate an intense vulnerability. No sex symbol here, his role as Stéphane reveals his nerdy, needy, helpless side.

"As the film begins, Stéphane returns to Paris when his father dies; born in Paris, he opted to live in Mexico with his father when his parents separated some years before. His mother (Miou-Miou) owns the apartment building where he is living and she has landed Stéphane a job at a calendar company.

"Stéphane is most likely a paranoid schizophrenic although the closest we get to diagnosis is a co-worker calling him a 'schizometric.' He fancies himself as an inventor using a paradigm of 'parallel synchronized randomness' as exemplified by his unique time machine. Stéphane dreams so intensely that he cannot separate his fantasies from reality. Fortunately for Stéphane, most of his dreams are whimsical in nature, even the dreams with underlying threatening tones. The subject matter of his dreams includes his parents, his co-workers and his love interest - Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the girl next door. Many of his dreams include a 'Stéphane TV' studio that houses a video camera made of cardboard box and flat TV screens nestled among egg carton walls. Sometimes Stéphane flies over an animated cardboard Paris which is clearly a fantasy. He even drives a cardboard car. What is not always clear is whether some of the more realistic scenes are fantasy or reality. Plotwise, it is a mystery whether Stéphane will get his girl or achieve success as an illustrator.

"Gondry (THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) has made a film that is undeniably charming. In both films, he does a wonderful job capturing the aberrant inner visions of his characters and a mediocre job in describing their more mundane and normal sides, the context in which their fantasies come into play. This shortcoming is limiting in the sense that his characters remain truly fictional and it prevents the viewer from identifying with the characters. While viewing Gondry's films, not once have I thought, 'Oh, no…that could be me,' a feeling I definitely had when watching the brilliantly horrifying HEAVENLY CREATURES.

"Where Gondry 'gets it right' in THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP is his use of languages. Throughout the film the dialogue drifts from French to English then back to French with some Spanish thrown in along the way. Few films capture the mixing of languages so accurately. This is how people of different cultures truly interact. And often English is the common denominator. Charlotte Gainsbourg is delightful as the quirky and somewhat unstable Stéphanie; Miou-Miou, whose career now spans four decades, is always a joy. 4 cats"

 
Carolyn says: "I definitely enjoyed this movie. Perhaps more so because as I was leaving to see it, my housemate said it was really good, but depressing. I didn't find it depressing, though certainly not uplifting. It was an interesting look into a mind that seems very different from my own, but how do I really know? Very well cast, important because the plot is essentially a character study. Good balance of humor and seriousness. I loved the cardboard model of the city and the cardboard car! 4 cats"
 
Michael says: "I was wary of THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP. I’m one of the few who was not a fan of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. I was also one of the few who had not yet been captured by Gael Garcia Bernal. The preview I had seen for SLEEP was intriguing, but choppy. I was, however, looking forward to seeing Charlotte Gainsbourg (MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS; HAPPILY EVER AFTER) in a film not directed by her husband. The film begins with young Stéphane (Bernal) hosting his own TV show where in his frenetic studio he is doing an impromptu cooking segment, whipping up a batch of dreams. The tone is set. We will be following Stéphane through his waking and sleeping life. Often it will be easy to tell the difference. Sometimes we will be unsure. Stéphane arrives in Paris from Mexico, staying in the apartment his mother and recently deceased father raised him. His mother has found him a job at a calendar production house. Stéphane thinks he will be working as an artist, but soon finds out he will be assembling graphic elements… cutting and pasting. In addition to being an artist, Stéphane is an inventor of whimsical devices like a time machine that moves you one second into the past or the future. Across the hall from Stéphane lives Stéphanie (Gainsbourg) who is single, charming, and eventually captivates Stéphane, who is initially attracted to her friend Zoé, with her artistic creativity. They would certainly be a perfect match if it wasn’t for the fact that Stéphane has difficulty separating his waking and dreaming lives.

"It took me about 40 minutes to settle into the film, get adjusted to its choppy pacing, and discover that I was really enjoying it. Gondry’s sense of whimsy is effectively utilized as reality and dreams overlap and pull apart. Despite the fact that the best way for Stéphane to communicate is through English (his French is poor, as is their Spanish) this is truly a French film, which, after ETERNAL SUNSHINE, threw me. I was expecting something more mainstream. The cast is terrific. I loved the way Stéphane’s fellow office workers (Alain Chabat; Aurélia Petit; Sacha Bourdo) played all of the characters in his dreams. Miou-Miou puts in a fine appearance as Stéphane’s mother. Charlotte Gainsbourg is delightful, fresh, compassionate, three-dimensional, adorable. She’s one of those rare actors who brings a naturalness to her film work that makes you really believe her character. The real revelation for me was Bernal. His work in this film shows a maturity, capability, and vulnerability he had yet to show. Stéphane’s character requires a lot of empathy from the audience, while behaving manically and poorly. Bernal, with his impish features morphing from mischievous puppeteer as host of his dreamtime variety show to lost man-child in need of comfort connects with the audience strongly. It’s an award-worthy performance to be sure, and one that won me over.

"Ultimately, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP is a touching romance about a man who has difficulty dealing with reality and how he relates to the everyday world. Loving someone with that kind of mental disorder is difficult, and Michel Gondry doesn’t spare his characters by letting a movie plot sweep them into happily ever after. Instead he awakens in his characters, and his audience, that desire to take care of someone who is need of help. 4 ½ cats"