"Science of Sleep" is the latest from director Michel Gondry, the imaginative director behind "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". This follow-up focuses on Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), a young man who isn't exactly pleased with his waking life - especially his job, which finds him putting together calendars in a drab office.
Without much to look forward to in his daily life, Stéphane relies upon his dreams - where he hosts "Stéphane TV" - for a source of entertainment. In Stéphane's dream world, Gondry does a magnificent job creating low-tech visual effects, including miniatures, what appears to be stop-motion and other various techniques, all cheaply done. However, Gondry is an exceptional enough visual artist that these effects don't seem cheap - they seem unique and imaginative. The film's "stars" are really the visual effects, which are beautifully unslick.
Stéphane's life picks up when he meets neighbor Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a young woman who has moved in across the hall. While he flirtation with Stephanie begins to make slow progress, Stéphane quickly finds that he has become more obsessed with his dream life, and the line between his dreams and his reality is becoming progressively blurred.
"Science of Sleep"'s main attraction, as mentioned earlier, are the visuals, which I found tremendously fun and inspired. The story, on the other hand, didn't hook me in quite to the level I'd hoped. While Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine" and "Human Nature" were written by Charlie Kaufman ("Adaptation"), this is the first time that Gondry's stepping out with his own material and the results, while better-than-average, are not without issues, such as the fact that Bernal's character can be immature and a bit irritating, although the actor portrays the role as best he can. The story also feels a tad thin (which does make the film feel a tad slow), as if the visuals - while amazing - got priority.
There's no denying that "Science of Sleep" has wonderful scenes where the merger of Gondry's visuals and the story click, but they just don't happen quite often enough. Still, concerns aside, this is surreal, ambitious little movie that is worth a look. I'd love to see what Gondry could do with an epic fantasy.
VIDEO: "Science of Sleep" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is terrific, as images remained crisp and clean throughout the show. While sharpness and detail weren't outstanding, the picture at least looked consistently well-defined and crisp. No print flaws were noticed and only a few minor instances of artifacting were seen. Colors appeared natural and accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack remained largely front-heavy, aside from a few instances during the dream sequences where the audio opened out somewhat, with the surrounds providing ambience and a few effects. The rear speakers also provided some reinforcement for the score. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue. Note: the film's dialogue is a mixture of English, Spanish and French.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Michel Gondry and actors Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Sacha Bourdo; The included "making of" documentary runs nearly 40 minutes and includes interviews with Gondry and members of the cast and crew. We also get some great looks behind-the-scenes as the director and crew discuss how they accomplished some of the film's major sequences on a low budget. Also included are: the short film "Adopt Some Love", a featurette on Lauri Faggioni, creator of Animals and Accessories; "Rescue Me" music video and trailer.
Final Thoughts: There's no denying that "Science of Sleep" has wonderful scenes where the merger of Gondry's visuals and the story click, but they just don't happen quite often enough. Still, concerns aside, this is surreal, ambitious little movie that is worth a look. I'd love to see what Gondry could do with an epic fantasy. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a nice selection of extras. Recommended for fans. Those who haven't seen the film should try a rental first.
The Film B