Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2024 12:00 pm 
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A talented young French filmmakers goes off his meds

Michel Gondry is a talented and original French filmmaker who has seemed to wander off the rails more than once. Many think his sophomore effort, the collaboration with Charlie Kaufmann Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was his high point as a director, not equalled despite seven films since. This new work, an examination of a young filmmaker, played by PIerre Niney, going off the rails, chronicles an emergency reedit done at the director's aunt's house in the country. The production company meeting in Paris has decided the movie is taking too long and going badly and takes it away from Gondry - er, Marc Becker (Niney). Becker calls his faithful staff and activates "Plan B." They seize the film and cart it to the aunt's house. The film is shot from here in a house belonging to Gondry's own late aunt Suzanne (profiled in his 2009 documentary The Thorn in the Heart, R-V 2010).

This revolt inspires Marc to throw away his daily meds. He essentially goes manic, entering into one wild scheme after another, forgetting ever to look at the actual film he's working on. He shows it, what there is of it, to the assembled town, but during this event he photographs the villagers - mostly sleeping - and forgets to review the film.

We must remember that this is a comedy, and some do find it funny, though neither the French press ratings nor the spectators' reflects wild enthusiasm (see below).

We might as well also note that when Owen Gleiberman reviewed the film for Variety at Venice where it debuted, the headline was "'The Book of Solutions' Review: When Did the Talented Michel Gondry Become the World’s Most Annoying Filmmaker?" This is unusually negative for a Variety review, and not typical of the general French response reflected on the French review website AlloCiné. On the contrary, they generally saw The Book of Solutions as a success.

What Gondry is doing here, apparently referring somewhat to what happened with him during the making of his Boris Vian adaptation Mood Indigo (Rendez-Vous 2014) - which might help explain its impenetrable denseness of invention - is letting his fondness for artisanal, unconventional, off-the-grid filmmaking show to the max. Some of that came out more sweetly and playfully in his last film (2015), the boyhood adventure tale Microbe & Gasoline, where two kids build an improvised "car" to travel across the country during their summer holidays. But in The Book of Solutions Gondry doesn't quite come to terms with the mental derangement aspect - or that the repetitive whimsy of Becker's often nutty inventions may pall after a while.

A colleague expert in the history of advertising tells me about the pioneering role Gondry played in the use of CGI in film adverts and music videos. (Others have made this leap, including Spike Jonze and David Fincher.) Sometimes artists have trouble making transitions from short to longer forms. But The Book of Solutions may rather stand as some kind of ultimate statement about a filmmaker off the rails and off his meds going wild with bricolage in the provinces.

Here one can appreciate the unique Françoise Lebrun as aunt Denise, as well as Blanche Gardin as a loyal editor.

See my Filmleaf September 2023 Venice note.

Also released at Venice Sept. 4 was François Nemeta's 80-min. documentary about the filmmaker, Michel Gondry, Do It Yourself! (IMDb).

The Book of Solutions/Le Livre de solutions, 103 mins., debuted at Camnes Directors Fortnight May 23, 2023. Limited French release Jun. 7. AlloCiné Press rating: 3.8 (76%) spectators 3.0 (60%). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
Thursday, March 7 at 6:00pm
Sunday, March 10 at 4:00pm


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