Michel Gondry on 'Green Hornet' and his music video legacy
After typically coming to the forefront because of a bold vision or creating something extraordinary, acclaimed filmmakers have a tendency to become more and more predictable as the years go on. Their new work becomes too similar to the previous films, the subject matter and style increasingly repetiitve. Famed French media maestro and Oscar-winner Michel Gondry clearly doesn't want to fall into that rut.
And yet, after his breakthrough success "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Gondry's next three films may not have been divergent enough. Sure, "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" didn't include any of his signature dream sequences, plays with perspective or handmade artistic flourishes, but as great as the concert doc is, a number of other director's could have shot the same film. The staleness began with "The Science of Sleep," an almost french language echo of "Eternal Sunshine" and "Be Kind Rewind," a Jack Black and Mos Def "comedy" that should have been Gondry's biggest commercial hit -- except it wasn't. Perhaps his use of everyday items wasn't as fresh, perhaps it was the disappointing screenplay or just the fact the movie wasn't very funny, but "Rewind" was a big old dud. Now, Gondry is going even more mainstream as he takes the reigns of the Seth Rogen action flick "The Green Hornet." And Gondry is intent on proving he can make a big studio picture while still including, but not overwhelming, the movie with some of his trademark creative flourishes.
"I don't want in my life to keep doing movies with cardboard. That becomes something of a joke," Gondry says struggling to provide an English language response. "I think what I like to do is something broader. Some of my favorite movies are really broad like 'Back to the Future' or 'Ghostbusters' or 'Robocop.' Those are all the movies I like. It's funny because when I met Seth Rogen and his writing partner they said, 'We're going to write a dream sequence to do your crazy Gondry shtick' and I said, 'Oh, no, no dream sequence. I've done it enough.'"
Sadly, Gondry hasn't made things any easier for himself by coming on board a movie whose original director, Hong Kong superstar Stephen Chow, dropped out, but is still expected to appear onscreen as the hero's sidekick Kato. The filmmaker says he hopes Chow stays with the project, but reveals "he's not confirmed yet."
"They weren't exactly in the same place and I think in the same way in the past I worked with people who were at different places for the same project I was able to meet their differences for the best of the film and I think I can do that," Gondry says. "So far, we don't have confirmation on Stephen Chow. But, we are still working on the new draft and writing."
So, while Gondry continues to prep "Hornet," he's actually taking some time off this day to promote his second collection of music videos, "Michel Gondry 2: More Videos Before and After 1," which was released on DVD earlier this week.
Many directors such as David Fincher, McG and Francis Lawrence and have used music videos to break into the business, but tend to drop the low paying gigs once they hit the big time. Not Gondry. After landmark videos such as Bjork's "Human Behavior," Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Massive Attack's "Protection," Gondry continues to shoot about two new short films a year for some of the world's biggest music stars. This compilation alone includes videos from Paul McCartney, Radiohead, The White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, Beck, Sheryl Crow, and yet another acclaimed film with longtime collaborator Bjork.
With his work spanning genres from pop to rock to hip-hop, I asked Gondry if he ever turned down videos because he just didn't like the song. Gonry replies, "Sometimes it's not my favorite and it's more a case of I work with the Rolling Stones and it's not my favorite song that they did, but it's the Rolling Stones! It would be just lying to say I turn down an artist I have immense respect for because it's not my favorite song."
The filmmaker also finds the shorts are a great source of inspiration and excuse to experiment in his down time. And while music video budgets have been slashed as labels look to cut corners in tough economic times, it's nothing new for Gondry who says he's always worked with smaller budgets than he's needed.
"A couple of time I had big projects, but I am pretty used to work in difficult conditions. In a way I never went for the glamours and high end look," Gondry says. "Of course the budgets have shrunk literally 90%, so there is barely any money left. But, even with money the creative can be brought down by the demands of the record company if they don't really want to play the game of creativity or let go of the typical rock n'roll or hip hop image. Then money isn't [always] the issue."
Trying to get Gondry to pick a favorite or two among his catalog of videos wasn't easy, but it's clear a few immediately come to mind.
"The first one I did for Bjork ["Human Behavior'] sentimentally is very important and maybe the one for Daft Punk [because] it sync's very well together," Gondry admits. "Sometimes we go in pairs. Sometimes it's the reputation of the first one. I did Kyle Minogue and Massive Attack which were one shot videos with lots of trickery, so I don't know."
"Michel Gondry 2: More Videos Before and After 1" is now available exclusively on MichelGondry.com.
Check out some of this author's favorite Gondry videos:
"Lucas with the Lid Off," Lucas
"Around the World," Daft Punk
"Fell In Love with a Girl," The White Stripes
"Mad World," Gary Jules
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
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