The Silence of Sleep review, The Silence of Sleep DVD review

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Buy your copy from Amazon.com The Science of Sleep (2006) starstarstarno starno star Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Miou-Miou
Director: Michel Gondry
Rating: NR
Category: Drama

There’s a great bit on “The Simpsons” after Moe has given his bar a facelift and turned it into a chic night club:

Homer, Barney, Lenny, Carl: Hey, Moe, what’s with all this stuff on the walls?
Moe: Come on, guys, it’s po-mo!
Homer, Barney, Lenny, Carl: (stare blankly)
Moe: You know, post-modern!
Homer, Barney, Lenny, Carl: (stare blankly)
Moe: All right, weird for the sake of being weird.

Using Moe’s definition, “The Science of Sleep” is undoubtedly the most po-mo movie you’ll see this year. And what else would you expect from Michel Gondry, the man that made “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and the White Stripes video with the Lego blocks? Well, some coherence would have been nice, for starters. As gifted as Gondry is visually, his storytelling could use some work. What starts off as a light-hearted fantasy turns disturbingly dark and unpleasant in the third act, leaving the viewer wondering why they should care about anything they’re seeing. The art film fans are going to love this. Everyone else will likely react like Homer, Barney, Lenny and Carl, staring at the screen blankly.

Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Stephane, the son of a landlady who’s come home to Paris after spending some time in Mexico. He’s an extremely gifted visual artist, but is not terribly grounded, which makes it rather difficult for him to deal with his soul-sucking job making calendars, not to mention his desire to win the affections of Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who lives across the hall. In fact, Stephane is so poorly grounded that he has a hard time distinguishing between the real world and his dream world, since each contains the same set of characters and neither of them makes any sense. Stephanie is charmed at first by Stephane’s eclectic nature, but before long Stephane is just acting childish, and Stephanie wants nothing to do with him. This only causes Stephane to retreat even farther into his dream world, since that’s the only place where Stephanie loves him unconditionally.

There’s a story in here somewhere, but Gondry gets too lost in his own visuals to tell it in a coherent manner. Maybe that was his point, to obscure the line between fantasy and reality. If so, then huzzah, a job well done, but that does not make for fun viewing. Challenging viewing, yes, but not exactly fun. And let’s talk about how completely unlikable Stephane becomes in the third act. His desire to win Stephanie over takes him into stalker territory, at which point the viewer will completely switch allegiances and even want to help Stephanie file the restraining order.

Gondry was clearly not trying to make anything as ambitious and far-reaching as “Eternal Sunshine,” but that doesn’t give him carte blanche to play around for the sake of playing around. I know it’s despite the movie’s point, but a little focus would have done “The Science of Sleep” a world of good.

DVD Features:
The single-disc release of “The Science of Sleep” features an audio commentary with writer/director Michel Gondry and the rest of the cast, an incredibly pointless making-of featurette, and a featurette profiling Lauri Faggioni, creator of all the film’s animals and accessories. Also included is a Linda Serbu music video, as well as her short film, “Adopt Some Love.”

~David Medsker

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