The Gondry quandry

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

WHAT ARE WE to do with Michel Gondry? There’s no deny­ing that the di­rec­tor speaks in the most sin­gu­lar of cin­e­matic voices. With films such as Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind, he has shown that, when con­strained by a strong script, he can ef­fec­tively com­bine emo­tional grit with psy­che­delic fire­works. Un­re­strained by a third party, how­ever, his films tend to to­ward the in­dul­gent mad­ness of The Sci­ence of Sleep.

With that in mind, you might rea­son­ably ap­proach this doc­u­men­tary in a hope­ful frame of mind. A quiet study of a beloved rel­a­tive – Michel’s in­domitable aunt, Suzette Gondry – sounds like the sort of beast that might draw out hid­den re­serves of dis­ci­pline and re­straint. As it turns out, there’s too much bleed­ing dis­ci­pline. Too much blasted re­straint.

A for­mer teacher whose gay son seems al­most as odd as his filmmaker cousin, Suzette cer­tainly comes across as an ad­mirable per­son. But, as the movie me­an­ders its way from one dull con­ver­sa­tion to the next, it proves hard not to won­der how any­body out­side the fam­ily could re­main in­ter­ested (not to say awake).

Far from dis­rupt­ing the flow, the di­rec­tor’s few mo­ments of cre­ative in­dul­gence come as some­thing of a re­lief. A model train il­lus­trates Suzette’s trav­els through­out life and, in one mod­estly ef­fec­tive moment, he projects a print of the 1941 film Re­morques, which Suzette once showed her pupils, for his milling, half-in­ter­ested ex­tended fam­ily.

The doc­u­men­tary only prop­erly comes alive when, for no good rea­son, Gondry stages a scene in which school­child­ren don cos­tumes that make them in­vis­i­ble. At such points, it seems as if even the di­rec­tor him­self has be­come bored with his core story.

Would Gondry fare bet­ter with a ma­jor stu­dio lurk­ing im­pos­ingly over his stu­dio? Does he need to swim in the main­stream for a spell? We’ll find out next week when The Green Hornet, his retelling of an an­cient crime se­ries, explodes onto screens.


It runs in the fam­ily: Michel and Aunt Suzette Di­rected by Michel Gondry

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