Michel Gondry at the 2012 Deauville Film Festival photocall for 'The We & The I'
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film Michel Gondry drove everyone crazy and then made a movie out of it

Michel Gondry drove everyone crazy and then made a movie out of it

Michel Gondry at the 2012 Deauville Film Festival photocall for 'The We & The I'

Ten years ago, Michel Gondy was directing “Mood Indigo,” his imaginative adaptation of the 1947 French novel “L’Écume des Jours” starring Audrey Tatou. And then he got lost.

“My brain was working differently,” he said on Zoom in a recent interview. “Every idea I had, no matter how big or small, was about life and death. Every little thing has become super important. I felt like I was reaching peak creativity.

Now he thinks back to the whole experience as a result of his delusional state. The film ran long and over budget, angering Gondry’s investors. He ran off to the French countryside with his post-production team to finish the project on his own terms. The film ran over two hours and received mixed reviews; a shorter version was released in the US by Drafthouse Films several months later.

That saga provides the template for “The Book of Solutions,” which will premiere at the Cannes market this week seeking US distribution. A direct response to his experience in “Mood Indigo,” Gondry’s first feature film in seven years is a relatively small undertaking. The French production stars Pierre Niney as Gondry surrogate Marc, who steals his film from a studio when executives try to take it away from him, and takes his team to his aunt’s house to finish it. With his ambition spiraling in several eccentric directions – an animated interlude, a car that doubles as an editing shop – Marc frustrates everyone in his orbit, including his usually devoted editor (Blanche Gardin). As a personal meta-film, “The Book of Solutions” is a reminder of Gondry’s whimsical narrative leanings and a sincere my fault for the toll they take on his associates.

“I had this megalomaniacal feeling of being part of history,” Gondry said, recalling a tangent recreated in the film in which his character leaves production to make a documentary about an ant. “It was hard for everyone else because they couldn’t understand why I was triggered by little things, but I could find universes within them.”

Indeed, Gondry retired to his aunt’s house in rural Cevanne (the subject of his 2009 documentary, “The Thorn in the Heart”), where she was still living in their childhood home, and insisted on completing “Mood Indigo” from only terms. The film, starring Romain Duris as a wealthy loner who falls in love with a sickly young woman played by Tatou, marked his first narrative feature film after the studio’s erroneous work ‘The Green Hornet’. That compromised experience plunged him into another extreme of unhindered creativity. “It’s something else to fail when you’ve tried yours than to fail when it wasn’t your idea,” he said. “It’s much more painful. I wanted to at least do it my way.

Luc Bossi, who produced “Mood Indigo” and co-wrote it with Gondry, acknowledged that the director felt challenged by the production, but not to the extremes portrayed in the film. “Michel has gone under stress due to the intensity of his feeling of responsibility towards one of the most beloved books in French culture and the level of scrutiny given to its release locally due to the popularity of the book,” he said .

Bossi said he approved of Gondry’s desire to isolate himself during post-production. “At the time, I think Michel also had in mind to create an artistic community there,” said Bossi. “They’ve been working there for a while, and I guess that was the inspiration for the new film because it was certainly offbeat and lively. Michel created many things during this period, including posters for marketing the film and a small book with advice on creation.

Pierre Niney in “The Book of Solutions”

That tome has become one of several plot devices in his new film, which finds Marc enmeshed in a series of extravagant creative indulgences, including an extended part in which he trains an entire symphony to improvise the score following its song-like movements. ballet. During the post-production of “Mood Indigo”, Gondry did this as well. “He gave me the feeling of driving a Formula 1 car, this feeling of creating something out of nothing in a completely different way,” he said. “It was a feeling I’ve never had before.”

Marc’s energetic approach to solving his film leads him to create the titular guide to his project, a meticulous assemblage of drawings and graphics that confuse all others. Because he demands participation in his extravagant scheme, he is forced to apologize more than once (and, in one case, apologize for his bad apology). That really happened too. “The problem is, after a while, you feel like your apology has no meaning,” he said. “I’ve been talking to my editor since then. I asked her what was her main feeling about me and she said she was concerned even though we had the most intense arguments. They were good people and cared about me no matter what was happening at the time.

Gondry has already explored the intricacies of do-it-yourself cinematic endeavors with 2008’s “Be Kind Rewind,” but “Book of Solutions” operates on a much smaller scale. Between “Indigo” and “Solutions,” Gondry was the lead director on Showtime’s Jim Carrey comedy “Kidding” before it was canceled after two seasons. Gondy said he was gratified by the opportunity to reunite with his ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ star (“he doesn’t need the traditional bullshit you sometimes go through with actors”), but his first serious TV venture it left him uncertain about The Medium.

“The main problem with the series is the writer who is also the showrunner,” Gondry said. “At times, I was frustrated because the showrunner was asking me to make sure every single sentence was shot.” Ever since “Eternal Sunshine,” Gondry has taken a more natural approach by filming all of his actors at once and allowing them to improvise between lines of the script. “The actors don’t know if you’re shooting them or the other person, so they have no choice, they have to be completely into their character,” he said. “I had a lot of material to develop and I couldn’t necessarily use it all. That’s why I thought it was better to make movies.

Gondry is currently developing a musical based on the life and music of Pharrell Williams, though he said it could be delayed by the writers’ strike. “It’s a pretty big budget, but it’s still something personal,” he said.

Although he shot his last feature films in France, Gondry has a complicated relationship with the country. He agreed to participate as a member of the Oscar nomination committee for France last year and found the experience unsatisfying. “I did it because I didn’t want to upset anyone, but that’s not my thing,” she said. The committee selected Alice Diop’s courtroom drama “Saint Omer,” but Gondry said his preference was suburban youth drama “The Worst Ones” and he found himself alone on that front.

“It felt like they were picking movies that they could win and not because they were the best movies,” he said. “I think it is a mistake. You have to choose the ones you love. They picked the one they picked because they said it checks all the boxes. (“Saint Omer” was selected, but ultimately failed to get an Academy Award nomination.)

Gondry is more involved in building a support system for new directors. Prior to its Cannes premiere, he spoke to me from Dusseldorf, where his production company was participating in a traveling program for emerging filmmakers to write short films with prefabricated sets. He said he was happy to create an environment for newcomers but reticent to offer much feedback.

“The business isn’t great now, but young filmmakers have a tendency to be quite picky and imagine their future too far ahead,” he said. “I encourage as much as possible, I try to be positive, but I have to be very careful. Sometimes people can be really offended.

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