May 29, 2008

Michel Gondry: an adolescent, not a child

A running theme here is the fading of all recollection of adolescence as one ages; at best, memories melt into those of the very different phase of childhood. This shows when people comment on writer and director Michel Gondry. A Google search for "michel gondry childhood" gets 61,000 hits, while "michel gondry adolescence" gets only 24,000 hits. "Childhood" and "adolescence" are nouns, so this probably measures what people think he focuses on, where he draws inspiration from, what period of his life was most influential in making him who he is, and so on.

Using the personality adjectives "childlike" and "adolescent," however, gives a different picture: 5,000 and 19,000 hits, respectively. So, people seem to think that he and his work are more adolescent. Combining these two results, people believe that his work is about childhood, but from an adolescent perspective. He himself sits on the fence, titling his autobiography I've Been Twelve Forever.

I finally got around to seeing his movie The Science of Sleep, which is his most autobiographical -- he said so, and he wrote the screenplay this time. To judge by this movie, his work is adolescent but, contrary to what most believe, is decidedly about adolescence. He is mired in his girl-hating phase, for example, torn between his desperate physical urge to be with girls and his hatred of their girly natures. Being forced to work a humdrum job while dreaming of cool work is also more characteristic of 15 to 25 year-olds than any other age group.

Overall, the movie should prove useful in reminding adults what adolescence was really like, as opposed to most of the TV shows, movies, and books devoted to this life stage. Its fantastic and absurdist qualities work both for and against this, though: they charm the audience into paying attention, but they also suggest that you're only watching what some weirdo went through. Having been one of those weirdos, I don't know how the majority who were perfectly well-adjusted as adolescents will react. In this way, it's a bit like Heathers, and plenty of people appreciate that movie, so maybe The Science of Sleep will have a similar popular appeal over time.

1 comment:

  1. Gondry's like a happier version of Tim Burton or a more child-like Terry Gilliam. When you see a Gondry's film you'll know it's him!


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