By coincidence, two tributes to baby-boomer auteurs are currently on display in Tokyo.
There are intersecting points: Both Tim Burton and Michel Gondry share a love of surreal visuals, stop-motion animation and slightly dark humor. The two exhibitions are, however, decidedly different beasties.
While “The World of Tim Burton” is a full-on retrospective that tracks the American filmmaker’s creative evolution, the exhibition “Around Michel Gondry’s World” is a bit more selective, conceptual … and jumbled. Which is not a bad thing.
Appealing to the fans of his whimsical visual metaphors, one section is devoted to objects that could pass for art pieces, such as a wax dummy of the character Jean-Sol Partre and the cloud-mobile from the film “Mood Indigo” (2013) or the janky time-machine of “The Science of Sleep” (2006).
Another section showcases Gondry’s charmingly simple drawing skills, which fueled a project called “1,000 Portraits,” in which he drew anyone’s portrait for $20 a pop, as well as his animated documentary of a long interview with media critic Noam Chomsky, “Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?”
As music videos make up a large part of Gondry’s oeuvre, a collection of 19 works are shown in a sort of mash-up maze. The soundtrack, broadcast via wireless headphones, changes as the viewer moves through a labyrinth of imagery. Despite the range of styles and music — from Cibo Matto to the Rolling Stones — Gondry’s visual DNA is evident throughout and testament to his auteurship resiliency. It is also better sounding on paper than it is in reality.
The true heart of Gondry’s world is in the most interactive section, titled “The Home Movie Factory.” In the series of film sets — a hospital waiting room, a bedroom with interchangeable day- and nightscapes, a “moving” train carriage — visitors are free to selfie themselves silly. However, those who take part in the twice-daily workshop can enjoy the real treat: a chance to collaborate with other visitors to make a movie. No filmmaking experience or budget necessary; creativity is a plus.
This DIY playground for the mind perfectly sums up the indie aesthetics of the man who constantly tips his hat to amateur passion. “It is not really an exhibition,” he said at the press conference. “It’s more of a system that allows a group of people to make their own little movies. It doesn’t claim to a be a film academy or (a place) to produce movies, but a place where people come to have fun without having to drink, buy Nikes or go to Disneyland.”
Ultimately, as with his animated exploration of Chomsky’s brilliant mind or his own “sweded” homages to classic cinema, Gondry constantly proves that simple creativity and an open mind can transcend any intellectual or financial barriers.
Burton devotees will no doubt be hoarding the collectible merchandise at his Roppongi Hills show, but the fans who dare to immerse themselves in the real filmmaking world at the MOT could leave with a keepsake like no other.
Interview dictation/translation by Alexa Teboulbi.
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