DVD Review: The Science of Sleep
Release Date: February 6, 2007
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Michael Gondry
· Gael Garcia Bernal
· Charlotte Gainsbourg
· Sacha Bourdo
· IMDb: The Science of Sleep
by R.J. Carter
Published: February 4, 2007
Michael Gondry and Charlotte Gainsbourg headline this soporific snoozer about a Mexican graphic artist abroad in France. Stephane (Bernal) has come to France at the behest of his mother, who had lured him there with the promise of a job. The job, it turns out, is a lousy one, with no creative effort at all, working in a print shop affixing corporate logos to calendars.
Stephane's drab existence is counter-balanced by his surreal dream life, which isn't always kept in check by sleep, which keeps the viewer wondering just how much of what they're seeing is intended to be real and how much is dream.
The would-be Walter Mitty's life becomes more complicated when Stephanie (Gainsbourg) moves into the room next door to him. Stephane spends much of the film wondering whether or not he is in love with her, and he has difficulties admitting to her that he lives only next door, making elaborate pretenses at coming and going to make her believe he lives further away.
Further blurring the line between fiction and reality are the devices that Stephane concocts: a time machine that jumps one second forward or backward; a chaos-theory driven motor that animates a toy horse; and glasses that let you see pictures in 3D. That they would work in dreams would be one thing; that some of them, on some level, seem to work in the real world is completely another.
Telepathy Helmet: Just one of the bizarre inventions
Stephane shows to Stephanie and her friend Zoe.
(L-R: Charlotte Gainsbourgh, Emme de Caunes,
Gael Garcia Bernal)
The dream segments -- usually set in Stephane's workplace or on the set of "Stephane TV" are nicely animated with paper cutouts and stop motion blended with blue screen and live actors. However, the plot is perhaps the most boring thing I've ever sat through outside of Canadian wildlife shorts. The lack of story progress as well as any sort of conclusion did more than make me ponder the science of sleep -- it made me long for the escape of it.
The special features on this disc go a long way toward helping the grade. Although it's not with the commentary track (featuring Writer/Director Michael Gondry, and actors Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Sacha Bourdo); nor with the the forty minute "making of" featurette, which is almost as hard to keep up with in places as the story was itself -- however, there are some really nice bits in here, showing the storyboards and concept artwork, stop motion animation, and the design of the toilet paper roll cityscape.
Lauri Faggioni has an eleven minute featurette on here. She's the lady who designed all the animals and accessories that you'll see animated through the course of the film. She certainly earned her money with this film, and I actually came to understand the film better through her comments than I did through watching the film itself. It was fun learning of the language barrier hurdles she experienced with Gondry as they communicated what was needed, and you'll learn how the animated cloth horse accidently came to be named Golden Ponyboy.
From the interesting to the creepily comedic (although with its heart in the right place), is the three and a half minute segment, "Rescue Me". Here, we're introduced to Linda Serbu of the Hollywood Kitty stray cat rescue operation. As we cut back and forth to the cast of the movie singing a song (while dressed in cat costumes), Serbu babytalks about neutering and spaying your cats, while dancing among them and mouthing the lyrics. Serbu reappears in her own film afterwards, "Adopt Some Love", which is a five minute featurette that follows cat rescuers as they operate adoption days, care for a stray cat colony in a paper recycling plant, and trap strays in humane cages, with stop-motion animation segues and another dancing Serbu closing out the segment.
The audio is in English 5.1 (thank God they put the dubbing in when the cast digresses into French), with subtitles available in English, French, and Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "The Painted Veil", "The Fountain", "Infamous", and "For Your Consideration".