On Directing vs. Drumming
Alain Chabat and Gael Garc/<>a Bernal in The Science of Sleep
In this section, Michel Gondry talks about his Directors Series DVD,
Dave Chappelle's Block Party, and his passion for the drums.
Fennessy: When I was in college, we did layouts with-we cut things out and stuck them on wax and then put them on paper. And that's how they're doing layout in the movie [Stephane works at a calendar company]. Did you do that kind of layout?
Gondry: So, you cut out shapes?
Fennessy: Yeah, when we did the campus newspaper, we were doing that
old-style layout, which is in the movie. And now...it's all on computers.
Gondry: Any computer has a program to do composition...but at the time it wasn't like that. When I was doing Stephane's job...I would guard this huge prehistoric machine. At the time, it wasn't prehistoric-I mean, it was in '82-'84-so it was optical at the most, certainly not digital. They had a computer in the middle of the part I worked in-1983-but they just used it to store customer information. So, everything was done like that in the back room with sticking little numbers on things...
Fennessy: And you still have nightmares where your hands are getting bigger!
Tyler: Do you know when you'll have time to do another Directors Series DVD?
Gondry: I'd like to do another one... It was the best thing that happened to me-
to put out this DVD-because after that people think of me as a creator. Whereas before, they said, 'Oh yeah, he's a video director, so he just likes the visuals, but doesn't care for the story.' But when people from the movie business looked at that-who are a little bit close-minded-they started to open to me. They would
say, 'Oh, you can do good videos, actually; he did some good ones, so maybe he's
not so bad.' It helped a lot with Eternal Sunshine. So, I'm really pleased with the way that turned out, with the book, and all the menus-everything was exactly the way I wanted it-and it was very nice. I wish it was always the case, that everything was like that. We've sold 200,000-300,000 copies... [For the next one] I already have 15-20 videos, and I'm doing a subject on my auntie this summer, who has been a school teacher all her life in the countryside in a little town, and on my son, which is to be called 'Paul Gondry is My Son.' It's going to be about his painting.
Fennessy: Does he have any work in The Science of Sleep?
Gondry: No, he was at school all day, he couldn't... Later, we will work together, but he's doing his painting now, and it's really brilliant, so I want to show him at work.
Mel Stuart's 1973 concert film with Jesse Jackson, Isaac Hayes, and Richard Pryor
Tyler: Do you think you might do a short film-collaborate on a single project-
with Spike Jonze or Chris Cunningham? You could all work on one project.
Gondry: We did some stuff together. We did kind of an "exquise" little film. We were hanging in a hotel room with one of...those cameras...[indistinguishable]. So he was starting a story and then I would carry on, and then he would carry on after me, and we didn't know what was going on, because we just saw the last frame. [pause] I don't know, maybe. Or maybe we're too close. I think he's more willing than me to collaborate... I fear too much to lose my individuality. I think my personality is maybe not so strong, so I really want to establish myself-and maybe [I'm] selfish.
[I think Gondry was talking about Jonze, but this part was hard to make out.]
Fennessy: We're bouncing around here, but I guess it's hard not to... When you were making Dave Chappelle's Block Party, were you thinking about Wattstax?
Gondry: Well, we mentioned it, but...it's not the same context. I don't think
I have to...pretend I'm doing a movie about an African-American rebellion.
More, everything we have to do our own way, so I strongly recommended we
stop thinking of that. I watched it, and it was great, but I didn't try to emulate it.
Fennessy: Yeah, the tone is completely different. It's a little similar [structurally], but I read an interview where you said you made the film right after the election, there was a lot of anger, and you wanted to sort of get away from that.
Gondry: Actually, we made it before; the election happened during the editing, and we were all...nausea. [laughs] So we didn't want to put too much political context because it was too-the best way was just to show the humanity of the people that were in the movie-more than...the anger. Everybody was happy to be there anyway.
[The film features Dave Chappelle, his favorite hip-hop artists, some
regular Brooklyn folks, and even a few fans bused in from Ohio.]
Fennessy: How did that come together? Did Dave Chappelle approach you or...?
Gondry: Well, we were joking around. We were doing some festival together, and
he said he...called Spike Jonze, and then because he wasn't available, he asked
me. So, I wasn't sure if it was serious or a joke, so I said to him I wanted to do a documentary with Chris Rock, and since he wasn't available, I'll ask you. [laughs]
But we had the same agent, and when he saw my DVD, he was a fan and when I
saw his DVD [Chappelle's Show], I was a fan. So as much as we are different, we have a lot in common, which is a creative process. As well, he was in a good place. He wanted to give back to the people who helped him...and now he was becoming a big star, he wanted to give back. I liked that gesture, so I wanted to be a part of it.
Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor T-shirt under his jacket,
with Ohio's Central State University Marching Band
Fennessy: There are a lot of drummers in the film. Did you have a rapport
with them? Even Mos Def has that scene where he's drumming-that's a great scene-and Dave Chappelle is telling the "Your Mama" jokes. And Questlove from the
Roots and Chappelle [who also drums] seem to have this great rapport...
Gondry: In the "Making of" on the DVD that's out now,
you can see me drumming with them. We did a mini-tour.
Fennessy: It came here.
Gondry: I wasn't with them when they came here; I was there for the East Coast.
In Charlotte, we did a gig and it was Erykah Badu's birthday, and she asked me
to come and play...and I played 20 minutes. It was my big dream-I was [living
out] my dream in some way-because I've been playing drums for years in bands, but they were always like new wave or very stiff, and I always wanted to play more like funk music. And with her, she has a great bass player and a backbeat...
Fennessy: And you're on the Kanye [West] album, which I just read.
I didn't know that. I was really impressed-that's a great song.
[He appears on "Gold Digger" off Late Registration.]
Gondry: It's a great showcase, but I have to admit, I played over a song
that he had recorded, and they looped me. I'm there, but it's not like I supported
the song. But yeah, I will do any drummer job for anyone. It's really nice to be
a drummer-as long as you don't have to carry the drums around.
Fennessy: Would you drum for the White Stripes if Meg was ill? [laughs]
Gondry: I don't know-she's irreplaceable. I would rather play the triangle.
In Stephane's dreams, he's a cat suit-wearing drummer
Next: On New Projects and Old Favorites
The Science of Sleep continues at the Egyptian Theatre (801 E Pine).
For more information, please click here or call 206-781-5755. Photos
courtesy Rogue Pictures and -(c) Warner Independent Pictures.