Friday, May 11, 2007

The Science of Slap-me-upside-the-head

Subject: Cinema
I've somehow wound up with a heavy slate of Netflix rentals this weekend. More about the other two when I watch them on Saturday, but this evening I watched last year's indie-buzzed "The Science of Sleep".

Turns out it's a French film that's mostly in English, because the leading man is supposed to be only half-French, half-Mexican, and natively speaks Spanish, and when he moves back to Paris, the only common language between him and everyone else is English. A somewhat inaccurate English, but otherwise it's the central mode of communication.

Anyway, I wasn't entirely sure about this one from it's "indie romantic comedy" reputation (a bit of buzz before it's release, and then it dissappeared), but I wanted to give it a try. And from the moment I started watching it, it wanted to stick knives into me.

Well, not really in a bad way or anything; in fact, it resonated a bit too well in a lot of ways. Thus the knives. The stinging "ouch" moments.

Right from the top, when we're introduced to the mechanism of dreaming -- and this is pretty much a surrealist dream-oriented sort of film through and through, which was quite cool -- it immediately describes the first dream as a moment where he meets his father "alive, just as if he were never sick at all". Ouch. But also dead-on accurate in the ensuing surrealistic depiction of how the dream plays out -- no visuals besides abstract shapes, just the narrative. Kind of with an observational fascination, then with an event of illogical absurdity, culminating in an objective description of an emotional reaction. It was fascinating that once I realized what he was talking about, I totally froze for a moment. But then found myself nodding in agreement, contemplative. Still, ouch.

Then the movie progresses into it's "romantic comedy" situation, but because it's about blurring the lines between the surrealist absurdity of dreams, and the mundane absurdity of the real world, it's very much not the typical sort of thing from your usual American film, indie or mainstream or otherwise. It's rather clever, and, then, with another stab of a knife blade, a bit too coincidentally familiar. The nerdy-hot creative girl, and the somewhat pathetic, thoroughly-rebuffed advances by the lead, and the ensuing dream-driven obsession, where reality isn't quite real anymore.

No, it's not remotely a point-for-point parallel (Parallel Synchronized Randomness? *cough*), but there's enough familiar material in there to continue with the "ouch" moments. But the soft absurdity of it all is amusing and lets me chuckle at it anyhow.

The best parts are the surreal bits of animation, of course. They're simple and effective sequences, and they tie in with the overall narrative quite well. And the ending animation sequence ends on a fine, satisfying moment; right where it should have.

So I really did enjoy this a lot more than I expected to, but I'm still a bit disturbed at just how close it cut.

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