French director Michel Gondry has been an international sensation as a music video director and most recently as a feature film director. He is well known for his creative imagery and inventive storytelling techniques, and for directing high-concept films based more in fantasy than reality.
Born in Versailles, France, Gondry was an artist from a very young age. He was an excellent drawer, who would teach his male classmates how to draw naked women. Gondry and his cousin would make rudimentary cartoons and flipbooks together, a fitting beginning to Gondry’s motion picture career. After enrolling in art school in Paris, Gondry started a band – Oui Oui - in which he played the drums, and directed the music videos that would catch the attention of an up and coming pop star named Bork.
Gondry’s music video for Bork’s song ‘Human Behavior’ used classic film techniques to create a magical world where Bork interacts with a giant stuffed bear – the video was so popular that Bork used him for five more videos, and launched Gondry’s music video career. For years, Gondry directed music videos and commercials, and finally got his chance to direct his first feature film, Human Nature (2001), his first collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, with whom he co-wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
Both films were noted for their inventive filming styles, but Sunshine was Gondry’s first real breakthrough, with its love story about a man who tries to erase the memory from his girlfriend from his mind, but has second thoughts during the process – unfortunately while he is unconscious and trapped in his own mind watching his memories disappear.
Gondry made a conscious effort to avoid using computer generated effects as much as possible, opting to use classic techniques like in-camera editing – allowing objects to appear and disappear – and by building sets that looked normally proportioned on camera, but were in reality were giant sized. This ‘forced perspective’ allowed for adult characters to be child-size. This sort of playful use of film technique is a signature Gondry style. Sunshine won numerous awards, including the 2005 Academy award for Best Original Screenplay.
His next film, Science of Sleep (2006) blurred reality and dreams even more, with a main character that can’t distinguish his dreams from real life. People praised his film for continuing to be personal and imaginative at the same time. Gondry also spent 2006 as Artist in Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest film, Be Kind Rewind is being released in 2008.