Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Innovation: or, Why I Love Michel Gondry

A good film maker is a story-teller primarily, but also a magician, technician, philosopher, poet, and artist. But there is one thing I think I may enjoy more in film making than anything else. I love innovation. When a scene is over, or better yet, the whole movie is over, and I feel compelled to rewind it and watch it again, that is almost always a good sign. When somebody can take old tools and use them a new way, I'm impressed.

WIRED magazine did an interview with the king of film innovation, Michel Gondry. He invented bullet time (made popular by The Matrix) and countless other techniques that had never been done before.
A sampling of his work:

The video for Daft Punk's Around the World.

Okay, maybe a little explanation is deserved. I remember the first time I saw this video, it was at my cousin's school dance in Raymond, Alberta Canada. Everybody was talking and dancing, but I just wanted to watch this video, it sucked me in. I didn't (then) know why, but that's what happened.

Turns out the video is a visual rendering of the song, with each (absurdly) costumed dancer represents a different element. The big guys (football players?) are the deep bass, the swimmers the hollow electronic echo, the skeletons as the twangy tones. And, of course, the robots are the synthesized voice. The circular setting signifies a spinning record. Wrap your head around that! After you are told or figure out the form of the video, viewing is never the same. I imagine the actors must have questioned the director's sanity when he asked them to put on these costumes, dance in circles to a song that had been slowed down ( you'll notice the video is slightly sped up), to choreography the director had made up, with no previous training on the topic. "Whatever, man, as long as Frenchie is giving a paycheck." But the Around the World video is often referenced as a favorite by many more than just myself.

For Star Guitar, by the Chemical Brothers, he uses the same technique in a different setting.

How about Come Into My World by Kylie Minogue? Great video. I just watched it on loop when I first came across it.

We really could keep on going. Let's try Cibo Matto's Sugar Water. This must have taken forever. You'll understand after the video gets past the halfway point.

Fell in Love with a Girl by the White Stripes.

He must really like the White Stripes, or they like him. Probably both.
The Denial Twist by the White Stripes.

These are just a sampling. You should see his movies. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is brilliant. The combo of Michel Gondry with Charlie Kauffman can't be beat. The same goes for The Science of Sleep.

And none of it with necessarily new technology. Gondry is notoriously analog, or at least low tech. It's a main theme of his upcoming Be Kind, Rewind.

It's true in any aspect of film making; editing, camera work, special effects. Anybody can take new tools and do new things. It takes a real innovator to do original work with the same old stuff.

That's part of why the Bravia ads have been so impressive.

In the preview for Take, about 4/5 of the way in, there is a shot where the viewer is looking down the barrel of a whirling handgun. That was easily the best shot in the movie, and lasted about three seconds total. They should have capitalized on that, just a little longer.

Christopher Nolan did it in how he told Memento. I'm a sucker for narrative manipulation. He did it again in The Prestige.

And anybody can flex their creativity and do it. This guy did. Watch what Ross Ching did with a plain ol' DSLR camera and a programmable tripod. I anxiously await Eclectic 2.0. Good thinkin', Ross.

I'd like to be more like that.


mdiller said...

Have you ever watched these videos, especially the ones that are a visual of the sound, with the sound off? its pretty crazy that I can more or less tell what the song sounds like having never heard the actual music and having no headphones at the moment.

Abby said...

I love that Daft Punk one. So hypnotizing. The Kylie one is great too.

becca said...

Raytown was always so up and coming on the newest hits.

douche froide said...

Cool, I love Gondry too :)

He inspiring me and I do some works in animation!