{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Be Kind Rewind

If there exists some concept of two types of growths, vertical and horizontal, where in, lets assume, vertical refers to age and horizontal refers to creativity, then Michel Gondry has long back ceased to grow vertically but grows astoundingly on the horizontal bars. His vision is a vision of a hyper-creative 14 year old boy (or girl), so his dream world is handicraft factory which manufactures joy that is natural and young, sadness which is pure, personal but the one that never breaks the young virile spirit. Things can be done in his world and all people with creative passion are like kids with crayons and cardboards.

In Be Kind Rewind, Gondry uses his world view to wrap nostalgia into a community building exercise with child-like vigor and creativity. Although working in the same domain, but unlike his previous film (The Science of Sleep, which boasts of one of the most heartbreakingly romantic endings, which for me, even echoed Nicholas Ray's beloved theme, "We don’t belong here, lets find a peaceful home for us", but this time lovers run away from the world on a stuffed horse over an imaginary river during the sleep) which is, to put rudely, about the romantic escapades of a 14 year old hyper-creative boy, the dreamworld here is very firmly connected to the realworld. That connection is the movies. And thats where Gondry is making a brilliant statement about our connection to films in particular, and all creative arts in general - as an urge and freedom to go to that dreamworld (here characters re-enact that dreamworld like small community Ramleelas).

The plot is also like a story which one child will tell to another where eye balls roll, eyes brows rock with a tear or two towards the climax. A VHS store is outdated and is about to close (It does not meet the safety criteria, 'they' are planning to built a pretty building in its place, the owner has a month notice), the owner asks one of his employees to look after the store while he is away. During that time, one of employees friends (which the owner did not even want near his store) accidentally gets magnetized and erases all the tapes in the store. To mask their mistake, they try to remake those films (they call them "Sweded", as if they are from Sweden) and rent to their customers. To their surprise, the neighborhood likes them even better than the originals and they become stars in their neighborhood till the big companies come to book them under piracy and destroy all their work. The community comes together to make a biopic of the legendary Jazz Musician, Fats Waller, who was supposedly born in the same VHS store, and to raise money from the community to save the store.

The journey of making this film lets the director to explore several things. First and foremost is the very nature of collective creativity driven by like minded passion. While saying or seeing it, it does look like a mushy or sentimental idea (picture long ago when you were young and stupid, along with you friends sat together and said "let us do something", but it never happened), a place where passion for art overcomes mutual differences, but we need to understand that its Gondry's child-dream-world we are in, which may not be possible but it is not dishonest or forced. Secondly its about the change, from VHS to DVDs, from old store to new building, from old mindset to new blood, and how things change for good and for bad. I might be partial to the film because it touches one of my favorite themes, an old man looking old, down with nostalgia and without uttering a word, he is saying that people become old and body gets weak, things will change, new will come, don’t be too happy or too sad, its a rule. This is essentially an Ozu idea. Time Regained has an excellent scene too about old age where Le Baron de Charlus, now old and weak, walks in front of young Proust and his pain filters through Proust's sensitive eyes, which is very different from Ozu's stylistically, but nonetheless very elegant and says the same things. In Be Kind Rewind, there is a shot of Mr. Fletcher (the owner, played by Danny Glover) boarding a train. Lots of things go on in the same shot but excellent Danny Glover maintains a sadness of something lost (is it the VHS store, or the jazz era of his neighborhood, or a lost youth?) in his eyes all the times. Thirdly, it about the cultural unification of a community through a new found art (homegrown film) and the return to the roots of an old community legacy (music of Jazz maestro, Fats Waller). Yes, it is again little sentimental. In real adult world , as we know, you don’t get best of old and new, one crushes the other, but here too Gondry makes a honest and heartfelt case, which makes us a child for a while and let us think that it can be.