BE KIND REWIND * * *

(BY ALI NADERZAD) In Michel Gondry’s new film Be Kind Rewind (out on Friday), set in Passaic, New Jersey, two friends find themselves in a jam (their video rental business is floundering) and rally their community to a cause, namely, that of junkyard filmmaking. But wait! Something else happens! One of the two friends (played by Jack Black), a nihilist hellbent on government-involved intrigues, becomes magnetized after an incident involving a power station. All the VHS cassettes in Fletcher’s (Danny Glover) video-slash-bodega become erased. Mos Def plays the intransigent video-store clerk—a paragon of studied reluctance—who has to pick up the pieces left in his friend’s wake—Jerry is a bit passive-aggressive. Oh but what must they do, Michel? The only logical answer is, of course, to reshoot all the movies. The ensuing series of gags involve various haphazard film productions going on in the junkyard behind the shop and adjoining streets to sometimes hilarious effects: Rush Hour 2, Robocop and Driving Miss Daisy—none will escape the boys’ determination. Frantic film shoots have to be completed before customers start filing in the store to purchase their “sweded” VHS cassettes. When Alma (played by the wonderful Melonie Diaz) gets cast as a female character in one of their first movie creations, she brings a dose of well-needed savoir-faire. Diaz, a sweet-natured and sharp-eyed newcomer, offers a perfect diversion to the two boys’ antics. The newly-formed trio’s rallying cry to the community is: we’re going to swede movies all the way so everybody should be involved! In addition to making his third feature film, it seems Gondry has also introduced sweding into the English lexicon. Namely, the process by which you, or anyone for that matter, can recreate your own movies—the idea is that we can all derive our own, homemade form of entertainment.
Be Kind Rewind shares similar traits with previous Gondry films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Science of Sleep (2006); characters and situations inhabit their own dimension without any reference the outside world. There are no outsiders looking in, which gives Gondry’s films a satisfying sense of self-containment. Also, found art and gadgetry are part of the Gon dryan palette. Gael Garcia Bernal’s gigantic hands in Science of Sleep, all the panels and circuity of Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind’s makeshift cameras and musical instruments. But while Eternal Sunshine and Sleep told events that happened between a very few people, there’s a power-in-numbers ethos in Be Kind Rewind. In order for Black and Def to be successful, they must count on the neighbors, friends and families’ involvement in shooting their backyard pictures, and this makes the film very moving, of course. In a recent interview in The Onion, Gondry wondered aloud what would happen if communities came out of their homes and created something together to make up their own entertainment. And yet, you might decide, like me, that Gondry’s films are perhaps best appreciated on a more abstract level. All the springs, quirks and levers seen in Gondry’s films can sometimes be rather garish—they remind us of a street magician who confronts you suddenly with a fast magic trick. The intention of his films, however, seems to be anything but. The purity of the sentiment between his characters (there is no lust, rather, admiration and love) mixed with the ingenous and unpredictable comedy that colors human relations make us laugh and feel great about ourselves. Be Kind Rewind is a must-see!

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