“Imagination transports you to a place that feels magical. I think people want to kill it because they want you to rationalize it. Life is much more complex than that.” —Michel Gondry
From May 11–June 23, the Walker Art Center presents the
Regis Dialogue and Retrospective Michel Gondry: The Science of Dreams
, featuring all of the director’s feature films, as well as a Regis Dialogue with Gondry and Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum (June 23, 8 pm). Films in the series include The Science of Sleep (May 11, 7:30 pm); Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (May 12, 7:30 pm); a Target Free Thursday Nights screening of I’ve Been Twelve Forever and selected music videos (May 17, 7:30 pm); Human Nature (May 18, 7:30 pm); and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (May 19, 7:30 pm). Also, Gondry’s short films The Letter (La lettre) and Three Dead People will screen continuously in the Lecture Room from May 1–June 30.
After a prolific start directing innovative music videos, Michel Gondry’s first feature film forays were the quixotic Human Nature (2001) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), two collaborations with celebrated screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. With his organic and off-the-cuff working style, Gondry’s filmmaking was a great fit with Kaufman, as he injected his own notion of chaos into Kaufman’s meticulously planned scenarios. Eschewing computer generated effects for in-the-moment naturalism, Gondry often utilizes everyday life materials to create his fantastical and whimsical film worlds. His most recently released film, The Science of Sleep (2006), is his first project directing from a script he solely authored, and it typifies his playful, adventurous explorations of the psychology of memory and dreams. Influenced by Luis Buñuel and Jean Vigo, Gondry’s fantastic imagery plumbs our deepest feelings and the intersection between dreams and reality.
With a background steeped in music—his grandfather invented the Clavioline (one of the first synthesizers), and his father owned an instrument store—Gondry began his filmmaking career making music videos for Oui Oui, the band for which he was drummer during his art school days. In 1993, he met singer Björk, and a long and ferociously creative relationship was born. He has gone on to direct innovative videos for bands from the White Stripes to Kanye West to the Rolling Stones. Always visually arresting, his work has a core of humanity that is often lacking in visual, effects-driven work: the man has soul. “In the most twisted and complicated idea,” says Björk. “Michel is only looking for one thing: to extract a bit of magic and mystery from things.”
All films are directed by Michel Gondry (except where noted) and will be held in the Cinema and Lecture Room. Except where noted, tickets to each screening are $8 ($6 Walker members). See all four ticketed screenings for $15 ($12 Walker members).
Regis Dialogue tickets are $22 ($18 Walker members) and are exclusively available to Walker members May 1–20. Remaining tickets go on sale to the public on May 22.
This program is made possible by generous support from Regis Foundation.
MICHEL GONDRY: THE SCIENCE OF DREAMS
A REGIS DIALOGUE AND RETROSPECTIVE
May 11–June 23
Friday, May 11
The Science of Sleep, 7:30 pm
The whimsical and imaginative Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) has a mundane job at a calendar company and longs for a more creative outlet. He becomes enamored of his neighbor, Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), but the relationship is threatened by the constant seepage of his fantasy life into his real world. According to Gondry, the film is an attempt “to connect dream with reality and see how they interact with each other.” The Science of Sleep is his most personal (and autobiographical) film to date—“a dazzling display,” according to Sight and Sound. 2006, 35mm, 105 minutes.
Saturday, May 12
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 7:30 pm
Over dinner, artist Pierre Bismuth proposed a provocative idea to Gondry: what if you received a card in the mail stating you had been erased from someone’s memory, and that you should no longer attempt to contact them? A love story in reverse, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind centers on the painful relationship between melancholic, nondescript Joel Barish (Jim Carey) and eccentric, wounded Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). Clementine hires a company to erase all of her memories of Joel, and an angry Joel reciprocates. The journey to the center of his mind reminds Joel of why the unlikely relationship first came to be—and why even the most painful memories may be worth holding on to. This wildly imaginative (yet ultimately honest) “fevered dream of love” (Wall Street Journal) garnered Gondry, Bismuth, and Charlie Kaufman an Academy Award for its Original Screenplay. The film explores “how we are our memories, how our memories affect our life, and how losing memories is a tragedy,” says Gondry. 2004, 35mm, 108 minutes.
Thursday, May 17
I’ve Been Twelve Forever and Selected Music Videos, 7:30 pm FREE
Directed by Lance Bangs, Jeff Buchanan, Michel Gondry, Cyril Merle, and Adrian Scartascini
A look into Gondry’s creative process, the documentary I’ve Been Twelve Forever mines a complex mind for glimpses of memories, dreams, and youth. A number of his eclectic and inventive music videos are also showcased during the evening. 2003, U.S./U.K./France, video, 77 minutes.
Friday, May 18
Human Nature, 7:30 pm
Gondry’s first collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) takes an absurdist tack on the question of science versus nature. Lila (Patricia Arquette) accepts her fate as an extraordinarily hairy human being, but becomes romantically involved with uptight Dr. Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins), who is at war with his own natural instincts. Together they discover Puff, a man-child brought up in the wild as a monkey. “A film of ideas and wry comic mayhem,” writes The Hollywood Reporter. 2001, 35mm, 96 minutes.
Saturday, May 19
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, 7:30 pm
Inspired in part by Wattstax (1973), Gondry’s documentary celebrates a hip hop concert in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, organized by controversial comedian Dave Chappelle. The film follows Chappelle as he recruits audience members from his home of Yellow Springs, Ohio, through the September 18, 2004, concert, and concluding with the miraculous reuniting of the The Fugees. Gondry was motivated to do the verité-style project by Chappelle’s ambition “to create a moment that will remain in history.” Also featuring Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Dead Prez, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Cody ChesnuTT, and Big Daddy Kane. 2006, 35mm, 102 minutes.
Saturday, June 23
Regis Dialogue with Michel Gondry and Jonathan Rosenbaum, 8 pm
$22 ($18 Walker members)
Gondry and Rosenbaum will discuss the director’s body of work, illustrated by clips from his films.
Michel Gondry Short Films
May 1–June 30, screens every 30 minutes starting at noon during gallery hours
Lecture Room FREE
The program includes Gondry’s poignant short film The Letter (La lettre) (1998, France, video, in French with English subtitles, 14 minutes) and his animated Three Dead People (2004, video, 3 minutes).