‘The Book of Solutions’ Review: How Did Michel Gondry Get So Annoying?

If you’ve ever questioned when it was that Michel Gondry, the gifted French director of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” turned the world’s most annoying filmmaker, you would possibly say the reply is, “He always was.” Yet nobody, together with me, fairly thinks of him that means. That’s as a result of the few works of his which have come to prominence possess a particular mixture of facility and allure. I like “Eternal Sunshine,” a virtuoso film that bends your mind and breaks your coronary heart on the similar time. You would possibly merely select to characterize it because the masterpiece of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, however the fact is that Gondry directed it ­— the leaps in time, the emotionally convulsive performances of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet — with a masterful sense of play and gravitational management.

I’ve all the time heard that the script Kaufman initially turned in was twice as difficult, and that it was Gondry who had the knowledge to work with him to prune it down. In 2004, when “Eternal Sunshine” was launched, it was solely Gondry’s second characteristic as a director, and it felt, from there, like he may do something. What he did, as a substitute, was to implode right into a confetti burst of featherweight absurdist quirk.

“The Book of Solutions,” which premiered final month on the Cannes Film Festival, is Gondry’s first characteristic in eight years, and it’s probably the worst film he has ever made. Yet like his different duds, it’s marked by a type of airtight mischievous self-love. Gondry has by no means misplaced his craft as a filmmaker (that is the director who, again in his music-video and TV-commercial days, invented bullet-time three years earlier than “The Matrix”), and “The Book of Solutions” spins out its story with the identical flaky droll Teflon confidence that has marked such top-heavy-with-their-own-caprice Gondry comedies because the befuddled video-store reverie “Be Kind Rewind” (2008), the surrealist romantic tragedy “Mood Indigo” (2013), the two-kids-on-a-road-trip-across-France drama “Microbe and Gasoline” (2015), or the movie that marked the flameout of his American studio profession, his really horrible 2011 reimagining of “The Green Hornet” (bear in mind? Seth Rogan performed the Green Hornet, which turned out to be a giant “nope”).

Because “Eternal Sunshine” is such an important and justly well-known film, and since Gondry was a real wizard of music video (which is why he labored with everybody from Björk to the White Stripes to Lenny Kravitz to Belinda Carlisle to Donald Fagen to Sinéad O’Connor to Malcolm McLaren to the Rolling Stones to Daft Punk to Sheryl Crowe to Radiohead), these achievements have overshadowed what seems to be the important Gondry aesthetic. The remainder of his films are crockpot casseroles of flaked-out whimsy, retro nostalgia, and extra flaked-out whimsy. They are inclined to characteristic dreamers who’re additionally losers, technological contraptions which have a rickety DIY high quality, all of it slathered in…extra whimsy.

What locations “The Book of Solutions” in its personal particular class of Gondry dud is that the film is about a movie director, one who’s making a film that appears so fuzzy and treasured that it’s as if the movie we’re watching is attempting to carry the Gondry whimsy to a brand new degree of meta-annoyance. In the opening scene, the director, Marc (Pierre Niney), a bearded 30ish legend in his personal thoughts, meets with the executives on the impartial studio that’s funding his newest undertaking. The movie he’s making is 4 hours and seven minutes lengthy, however he already is aware of it’s a masterpiece. He assaults everybody there along with his obnoxious concepts for it, to the purpose that when the studio swimsuit in cost shoots him down, we are able to’t assist however aspect with the swimsuit. Marc, shattered by the response, goes out to have a cigarette — besides he doesn’t smoke. He’s actually hustling right down to the modifying suite in order that he can steal the movie, together with the modifying gear, and cease the studio from ruining his “vision.”

Gondry shoots all of this with an acerbic satirical contact that appears, for some time, to go away the film open to the chance that it may be mocking its hero. Except that Gondry by no means actually sticks with anybody else’s point-of-view; he likes Marc an excessive amount of to skewer him. Marc and his editor, Charlotte (Blanche Gardin), head for the village of Cevannes, the place they gap up within the nation home of Marc’s Aunt Denise (Françoise Lebrun). There, Marc plans to finish the movie on his personal grandiose phrases.

A film in regards to the making a film will be an irresistible style, however that’s not likely what “The Book of Solutions” is. Gondry locations Marc, in all his impish self-regard, entrance and middle, in order that we get to spend an inordinate period of time consuming in how a lot he looks like the facile Zoomer descendent of Jean-Pierre Léaud — an actor we consider as an enormous (and is), although Léaud, within the Seventies, performed greater than his share of obnoxious disaffected narcissistic brats. Pierre Niney, the French-Belgian actor who’s finest identified for portraying Yves Saint Laurent within the 2014 French biopic of the identical title (it received him the César for finest actor), takes off from there. As Marc, he’s just like the Léaud of “Day for Night” downgraded to a doofus irritant, with skinny curled lips and almond eyes that absorb all the pieces however react to nothing. All that exists for Marc is what’s in his personal noggin.

The character, as offered, is a liar, an abuser, and a flyweight sociopathic pest. We hear, in voiceover, his judgments of different individuals, which are typically megalomaniacal dismissals. Everyone is stuffed with it aside from him. Other characters swing in for a second or two, just like the native who lets Marc borrow his recording studio, the slacker mayor, or the assistant editor who coughs compulsively. Gondry, as all the time, is into doohickeys, contraptions, and discovering low-tech methods to do high-tech issues. Marc retains writing down his Zen-clever-idiotic concepts (“stay in second gear”), compiling them into one thing he calls The Book of Solutions. As quickly as we hear the title of Sting talked about, we all know, as absolutely because the regulation of Chekhov’s Gun, that Sting will likely be popping in for a cameo.  

How trifling, how tedious, is “The Book of Solutions”? Let me put it this manner: At the exhibiting of the movie I attended in Cannes, the girl subsequent to me was taking a look at stuff on her telephone…and nobody round her bothered to complain! After some time, your principal response to Marc’s faux-adorable imperviousness could also be that you just need to slap his gawky, staring-bird face. Yet he’s no extra deluded, in his means, than Michel Gondry, a maverick of expertise who can one way or the other persuade himself that we’re going to discover a character — or a film — like this one irresistible. He must rejoin the actual world and cease basking in his personal everlasting sunshine.

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