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An illustrator of sorts, Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) moves back to his mother's Paris apartment for a new job, and soon meets the two girls living across the landing, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Zoe (Emma de Caines). The new job turns out to be much duller than he was led to expect, working on calendars with the crude Guy (Alain Chabat). But all the while, Stephane has vivid and extensive dreams, including the recurring one about his own one man show, Stephane TV. As his waking life and sleeping adventures tumble through his brain, his attraction first to Zoe then to Stephanie begin to consume him and his inventive mind. But Stephanie finds his indecisiveness offputting, not to mention his bizarre behaviour as if he were in a dream ....

Review by Louise Keller:
A wondrously baffling jigsaw puzzle where dreams and reality struggle to find a fit, The Science of Sleep is the dream you wish you could have, if you could only remember it. There is nothing straight forward about Michel Gondry's bizarre marriage of the conscious and the subconscious, in which two like souls are drawn by the magnet of their parallel thought patterns. It's crazy and funny, bewildering and confronting as Gael Garcia Bernal's Stephane's and Charlotte Gainsbourg's Stephanie literally and figuratively fall over each other through a confusion of languages, dreams and aspirations.

Stephane lives in his own reality, based in an imagined make-shift tv studio where a cardboard camera records the melange of thoughts, ideas and memories he stirs into a huge stainless steel saucepan. His mind is already in a state of disrepair following the recent death of his father, but is immediately attracted to Stephanie and the wondrously strange assortment of felt and wooden objects she collects. ('Because everyone else is boring; you are different.') ('Will you marry me when you are seventy? You'd have nothing to lose.') A jumble sale of confusion pelts into Stephane's colourful dreams, when his parents, cynical workmates and Stephanie intrude into his fantasies. He is submerged in a bath of cellophane paper; on a ski-lift on cottonwool snow-slopes; wearing a fur cat suit; riding on a felt horse with mechanical legs.

Gondry explores an endless stream of emotions: jealousy, love, loss, regret, inadequacy. Yet the film teeters on an endearing child-like innocence and joy from the outlandish. Our hearts leap as the relationship between Stephane and Stephanie connects in a haze of misadventures, misunderstandings and frivolity. We too, are suspended in the clouds of cinematic magic, as we realise there is no science when it comes to love.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The original French title means The Science of Dreams, a more relevant (if still inaccurate) title for a film that takes movie whimsy to great heights. It's a romance, told through many dream sequences that are represented by a mix of animation and naÔve props, like cardboard TV cameras, cellophane for water, and toilet roll cylinders for cars and trains.

The inventiveness of the approach and the freshness of the performances - notably by Gael Garcia Bernal as the confused innocent stumbling about his dreams by night and around Stephanie's heart by day - makes the film entertaining enough to watch. But there is little residue; the whimsy is so overpowering as to drive out all reality. Nor is it a real fairy tale in which we can indulge our imagination. It is more a fantasy that is imposed on our imagination - and the difference is that we are less involved.

An acquired taste, Michel Gondry is nevertheless a talented filmmaker; his biggest success has been Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he directed and co-wrote with the imaginative Charlie Kaufman. With The Science of Sleep, he again plays with concepts to do with the workings of the mind in a comedic fashion, experimenting with ideas that are not meant to be deadly serious - yet thought provoking.

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(France/Italy, 2006)

Science des rÍves, La

CAST: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Miou-Miou, Pierre Vaneck, Emma de Caunes, Aurelia Petit, Sacha Bourdo

PRODUCER: Georges Bermann

DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry

SCRIPT: Michel Gondry

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Louis Bompoint

EDITOR: Juliette Welfling

MUSIC: Jean-Michel Bernard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ann Chakraverty, Pierre Pell, Stephane Rosenbaum

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes



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