Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Be Kind, Recharge

Michel Gondry's latest promo is for Beck's Cellphone's Dead and you can see it now on the official site of Partizan, the production company for Gondry's ads and videos.

Shooting wrapped on Gondry's next film Be Kind, Rewind on October 26th. Those are some of the film's extras, in the hats.

Shooting was over almost two weeks ago now but all the same, the film's not due for release for almost a year - despite an almost complete absence of post-production effects to be carried out.

There are so few post effects because, as is very often the case with Gondry's work, most of the trickery in Be Kind, Rewind was carried out "in camera". The twist this time is that a lot of the effects work was carried out by the cast.

Let me explain...

The plot sees Jack Black as junkyard worker Jerry. After suffering some skull-splitting headaches he's moved to desperate measures and attempts to sabotage a earby power plant, believing it responsible. Of course, this being a Gondry film not even the most basic laws of physics apply with any consistency and, somehow, Jerry "magnetises his brain". Then - why! of course! - this charged-up cerebellum wipes all of the cassettes in the local video store.

That's just the maguffin to get the ball rolling. Once the tapes are blanked, the plot proper begins. Jerry and his friends - played by Mos Def and Melonie Diaz - conspire to remake the blanked films themselves. Recording directly onto the wiped tapes they attempt to reconstruct such films as Robocop, Back to the Future, The Lion King and Rush Hour.

At least - those are the films everybody has been name dropping. Recently, Gondry revealed that copyright issues prevented him getting access to some of the films he had written into the script, necessitating heavy rewrites in the final few weeks before production. Whichever films he was denied, they have remained unnamed.

Each of the remakes we see in the film was actually carried out on set by the cast playing the characters (and in character, as it were) and this is what will make the film truly special. Want to see Robocop remade on a shoestring budget, from memory with no reference to the original film let alone a script, and starring Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover and chums? Without Michel Gondry to make the impossible possible, you wouldn't have even dared dream of it.

Here's a great example of the ingenuity on display: a remake of an older film is synched with the look of it's scratched print by moving taught pieces of cotton back in forth in front of the camera. Some of the remake tricks might be easy enough to guess - like, say, everything being painted in shades of grey for a black and white film - but the prospect of The Lion King's animated imagery somehow getting faked in live action makes my mind boggle. Or will Gondry go for cardboard cutouts?

The copyright issue was a sadly inevitable case of life imitating art, I'm afraid. Sigourney Weaver appears in the film as a Hollywood lawyer come to Passaic, NJ, in order to shut these ramshackle remakers down. In the film, imagination will prevail and I'm sure, last minute rewrites or not, the ingenuity of Gondry will guarantee the same in (boring old) reality.

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