Friday, September 22, 2006

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP

Never mind how long it’s been since I wrote more than a couple sentences about a movie, it’s been far too long since I wrote of one I didn’t like.

First, know two things – I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the film Michel Gondry made before this. It’s not my favorite flick Charlie Kaufman’s written (Being John Malkovich is), and it’s not one I watch a lot, but I have a lot of respect for it and it really did hit me when it first came out. That respect comes largely out of Gondry’s heavy use of practical effects (effects created on the set as opposed to being added digitally), and making an effective love story out of a pretty cool science fiction idea.

The second thing to know is I love watching stuff that is clearly a director’s vision in its purest form. Those projects where a director works purely off instinct. The films are often quite pure, if not always perfect. Elizabethtown is a perfect example of this, as is King Kong, as is Star Wars, as is Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as is The Science of Sleep. Half of it does come from reading interviews with the director, but I also think you can kinda sense it a bit. At least I can. Not that I’m any better for it, that’s actually a little sad, but what’ll ya do.

So in the same way I have respect for the way Gondry made Eternal Sunshine, I have a lotta respect for the way he made this. There’s a lot of practical effects, a lot of stop-motion animation, and a lot of imagination. Visually, it’s spectacular. The dream sequences especially are so fantastically realized and so well put-together that it really is disappointing when I sat there at the end just not caring. See, it lacks the crucial ingredients of a coherent story and a strong leading character. There are a lot of really great scenes in here, none of which add up to a real story. It’s not just that the story that’s there is bad, it’s that there isn’t really a story. And I’m fine if the movie only works on a visual level, but if that’s the case it better as hell use its images to make me think (2001: A Space Odyssey), move me (The New World), or entertain me (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).

As for the main character…the best I can come up with is watching him is like listening to emo music. It just makes me want to kick him in the nads and say “man up!” I have no problem with shy characters, or guys who are afraid to take control of their life. I have a problem with characters who whine. Not complain, or voice their emotions…I mean characters who whine. They bitch and bitch and never do anything to make anything better. As supporting characters they annoy me, but as a main character it’s just infuriating to watch. And by the end, he’s a little bit of an asshole to boot. I’m not asking for flawless characters, just compelling ones. Tony Soprano kills people for a living, but damn if I don’t care about that guy.

So the good news for me is that I have an art-house movie to point to that’s all flashy effects with no compelling story or characters the next time I hear crap because I love Armageddon.

2 comments:

Ben said...

man, I really wanted to see this too. have you seen the protector yet?

Scott said...

Well, The Science of Sleep is still getting mostly good reviews, though not overwhelming (Rotten Tomatoes link above). I skipped The Protector because I heard there was really only one spectacular fight scene, so I'll rent it sometime. Also, I guess it was heavily cut from its original Thai version, when it had the more-fun-to-say title "Tom Yum Goong."