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This week:
The Science of Sleep

Filthy says:
"If this is a dream, I don't want to ever wake up. Unless Hamm's is on sale."

The Science of Sleep is about being young, shy, unsure and in love in ways profound and beautiful, honest and brutal. Holy fuck, what a great movie. What a God-damned masterpiece, made of spit, sticks, mud and cardboard. Director Michel Gondry's achievement is like someone building a Ferrari out of squirrel bones, and it not only working, but winning F1. That's not easy, take it from someone who knows. First, you have to find enough squirrels, and they do stop hanging around you no matter how much baloney you bring them.

The story moves in dream time, disjointed, floaty and hazy. Bernal has those dreams where his hands are enormous. I get that sensation just before I fall asleep, and I love it. (I like too when I'm so damn tired or drunk that I feel like my body is sinking into the mattress as though it were quicksand.) Reality and Bernal's dreams are strings that run parallel, intertwine and separate and then twine again. At some points in the movie, I didn't what was real and what was imagined. That isn't important, though. That's the audience falling into the same rhythm as Bernal, who also doesn't know.

The plot is simple and classic: boy meets girl; boy likes girl; boy sabotages any hope he has for girl. But the movie is about recreating the feelings, not documenting the events. Gael Garc╠a Bernal is the young and timid hero. He returns from Mexico to his childhood apartment in Paris after his father's death. A sensitive artist type, he often confuses his dreams and reality. He imagines himself the host of a talk-show about his own life, conducted in a cardboard studio behind his eyelids. He dreams of being the kingpin in a cheesy druglord drama. In Paris, he sleeps in his childhood bed, surrounded by his childhood art supplies and fantasies. Maybe it's his mother trying to keep him a child or keep him physically or emotionally near. Regardless, he accepts the arrangement, including a shitty job that his mother got him.

When he meets his next-door neighbor Charlotte Gainsbourg, an art-store employee, he feels the swelling lump of uncertainty that comes with unrequited love. He begins his courtship of her the way every shy young man does: by expecting her to hate him. Alternating giddy excitement and self-loathing, he goes to great lengths to impress her, including building her a stuffed toy pony that can run, lying about where he lives, and building her a one-second time machine that uses old flash bulbs to transport the user forward or backward in time one second.

When left on his own and to his active imagination, Bernal comes up with a million ways to overanalyze and misinterpret what has happened. After seeing The Science of Sleep the feeling washed over me like the chills of a bad fever when you get out of your sickbed. A moment's rush of adrenaline over the possibility of love followied by hours of dread, laying in bed playing out how badly wrong it can all go, or how stupid I was in thinking a simple touch or gesture meant anything. Or how I shouldn't have told her I liked sniffing armpits or made that joke about fucking nuns.

After all, we live with ourselves and understand all the reasons nobody should ever love us. We know we pick our noses, cheat at crossword puzzles, are selfish and petty. I know what an asshole I am and how I steal change from hobos and knocked over the cooler and spilled everything they collected at the Elk's blood drive. Why in the world would anyone love me?

That question fueled my existence for years; I hoped a girl loved me until my brain reverse engineered it until I understood she couldn't possibly tolerate what a horrible person I was at the core. It's a sensation I forgot in the complacency of comfortable cohabitation. The uncertaintly's a shitty feeling, sure, but also dramatic, and without despair, there can be no hope. So you're up and down: she loves me! She hates me! She loves me! How soon will she hate me? Some girls, I may never know how they felt because I sabotaged myself long before bothering to find out. Other girls, well, shit, they really did hate me. Or they thought kicking me in the nuts was a gesture of affection.

Some people treat relationships like selling a used car: hide the deficiencies. A little spit and polish and don't show under the hood until the deal is consummated. Or, in romantic parlance, until after you fuck. They're all about closing the deal. Then, there are those of us, like Bernal in the movie, who have a compulsive need to be overly honest, who can't resist revealing our worst traits, even when we're not asked. We want to fail because it's easier that succeeding and living with the fear that failure is still ahead.

Gainsbourgh likes Bernal, maybe as much as he likes her. Though, she's just almost as shy about saying it as he is. He wants badly for her to tell him so, but when she does, he's asleep. Besides, even if he were awake, he'd find a way not to believe her. I always did.

The Science of Sleep is perfectly pitched. Bernal and Gainsbourg give beautiful, natural performances. No hamming, no ego. Bernal lets go completely. Obviously, he gets both the sadness and the humor of the position a sensitive boy gets himself into when he falls in love. And the movie is fucking funny. Sometimes gorgeous, simple and funny all at once. A note on an organ makes cotton ball clouds hover in mid-air. Cardboard cutout cities loom menacingly outside of windows. Director Gondry uses low-tech stop-motion animation, cardboard and found objects to fill the dreamscapes. It's not annoying, it's inspiring how much art can be made from so little. What he does is not easy. I was so inspired tried making a go-kart from a roll of toilet paper when I got home, and alls I got was a plugged nostril.

The Science of Sleep is a great fucking dream. It's a great movie too. Five Fingers. It made me want to be young again and so in love that I hated myself.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Pete Hammond of Maxim

The Guardian is "Stirring and exhilarating! An unforgettable motion picture experience. The Guardian will remind you why Kevin Costner became a star. A breakthrough performance from Ashton Kutcher."

Filthy's Reading
Donald Westlake - Put a Lid On It

Listening to
The Stranglers - Greatest Hits