Feature by: Jack Foley
FRENCH director, Michel Gondry, doesnt mince his words
when talking about the things that inspire or frustrate him.
The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is therefore
gushing in his praise for co-writer, Charlie Kaufman, as well
as his stars, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, but is equally scathing
when it comes to articulating his fury concerning corporations
Gondry looks set to become one of modern cinemas innovators.
Having cut his teeth on commercials and pop videos, he ventured
into movies, with writing partner, Kaufman, for the little-seen
Human Nature [starring Tim Robbins, Rhys Ifans and Patricia Arquette],
before wowing American critics with Eternal Sunshine.
The film explores the concept of memory, and features Carrey
as a love-struck, everyday guy, who is distraught to find that
his girlfriend, Winslet, has suddenly erased all memory of him.
Out of bitterness, he does the same thing, but, mid-procedure,
decides that he wants to hold onto the happier moments, and begins,
frantically, to hide them, before the technicians succeed in their
The story is another of those compelling, off-beat creations
from Kaufman, whose previous work includes Being
John Malkovich, and the Oscar-winning Adaptation.
And it provides an excellent showcase for Gondrys talents,
who confessed to always being challenged by the writer, in spite
of his own reputation for taking risks - Gondry can lay claim
to being the most highly-awarded director for one commercial (Levi),
and invented the technique of several cameras taking pictures
in the same time around somebody, made famous by The
"I was saying this morning that he gets on my nerves because
I always have to justify my ideas," he explained, from a
suite at the Covent Garden Hotel. "But then, at the end of
the day, he makes me smarter, because I have to dig very deep
to find out why I want to do something.
"You can really count on him to tell you if he likes it
or not, without any compromise at all, which is a very rare quality.
He just focuses on what he thinks is right or wrong.
"Sometimes I get irritated, because I wish I could just
work with my instincts, but then, at the end of the day, I find
it great that he makes me more intelligent."
Not so rewarding, however, is the feedback from other people,
who are often quick to criticise his desire to be different, especially
when working in movie format.
"Every single person in the street comes up with a comment,"
he explains, when asked about the main difference between making
movies and pop videos. "And, often, they are not embarrassed
to say they hate it, which I find kind of mean. If they don't
like it, they should just not talk to me.
"Seriously! I always tell my friends, it's fine if you don't
like my movies, just don't say it to me, because it has taken
four years to do it. People assume that you're in such a great
position, as a director, but it's not true, it can be really painful.
"I mean, my best friend saw my first film and said that
he really loved the final five minutes, and then made some more
"And his opinion is fine, but I told him, 'listen, you should
consider me as a child', because if you have a child, you would
not say to him 'oh look, you're tiny, and you're weak, and you're
not very pretty!' You need to be able to preserve a little bit
It is a comment made with the sort of assertion that seems typically
French and typically arrogant, but which certainly seems valid
at a time when there are too few risks taken within mainstream
"I think people who are non-creative sometimes get upset
because you are creative," he added, when explaining instances
of cinema-goers accusing him of wasting two hours
of their lives.
And for Gondry, the frustrations dont stop when it comes
to working within the industry, which is equally as reluctant
to embrace innovation.
Recalling an experience he had when trying to incorporate some
of his ideas onto the DVD release of Human Nature, the director
became quite animated.
"One week before the DVD was out, they sent me a copy for
approval, and I said, 'where's my idea'. And they said, 'oh, we
didn't have time to do it, it was too complicated'.
"So it was like, why do you show it to me if you can't do
these things? And why do you misspell the name of Robert Forster?
You have to change it.
"But they then said, 'oh, we don't change the spelling if
it's not one of the two main characters'. I mean, why the f**k
would they give me this thing to approve? What do you expect from
me? That's what we have to deal with all the time...
"I did my own DVD with everything that I wanted, and it
took six weeks to do it. So it is all possible. I think everything
is possible when people put their mind to it. Stop thinking it's
not possible, that's the only thing I ask you. Ninety nine per
cent of my energy is spent saying to people, 'listen, it's not
'not possible', ok?"
In spite of this philosophy, however, there are some things that
Gondry refuses to do, on ethical grounds, such as filming commercials
for cigarette companies and the Army.
The latter, in particular, is a sensitive subject, especially
when Gondry is given the opportunity to comment on the current
"Those guys who advertise the Army every five minutes are
just so unethical to me," he said. "I don't usually
make political statements, but I seem to be putting my brain out
at the moment.
"I just feel sometimes that somebody should draw this right.
One Iraqi equates one human being. I'm so sick of being in America
and hearing everybody talking, for 10 hours, about some guy who's
been taken hostage and how horrible it is.
"It is horrible, yes, but it is just one thing that is happening
out there. Sometimes there are 100 Iraqi's dying, because they
are getting bombed, and they never mention that. And I don't understand
the concept of there being a difference between two human beings.
"Like reading a newspaper, and in small titles, there is
a headline 'plane crashed in India', and then in big type, 'three
American citizens...' I mean, f**k you!"