96: THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP 
DIR: Michel Gondry
WHY IS IT ON THE LIST?
Much as I love a lot of really fucked up, brutal horror films, I’m actually something of a romantic at heart, and right from the first time I saw it the surreal, yet personal, story that Michel Gondry (writing his own screenplay for the first time) weaves here appealed to that part of me.
I’ve always said that reactions to movies are very personal, and I won’t go into the details (because this is a movie site, not a therapy session), but let’s just say that with my romantic history I found it easy to identify with Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), his infatuation with his next door neighbour Stephanie (the enchanting Charlotte Gainsbourg), and with the fact that she just wants to be friends.
Visually speaking, like much of Gondry’s work, The Science of Sleep feels very handmade. Rather than using CGI to create his alter-ego’s dreamworld Gondry constructs much of it from household items; toilet roll tubes, washing up bottles, CDs and papier mache all figure heavily in the film’s very individual design. At first Gondry moves you deftly between quite well defined real and dream worlds, but as the film goes on he blurs the line further and further, mixing the real and the surreal ever more freely, without losing sight of the film’s bittersweet love story.
The performances are excellent. Gael Garcia Bernal makes a real change of pace as the naïve, nervy dreamer Stephane, who manages to woo Stephanie very successfully in his head, but can’t quite do it in the real world. Charlotte Gainsbourg is perfectly cast as Stephanie; the girl you’d kill to have living next door, she’s dynamic, smart and funny as well as being gorgeous and you can completely understand why Stephane falls for her and, equally, why she doesn’t fall for him.
In Gondry’s previous films, written by Charlie Kaufman, endings had been a problem, but here he finds just the right note, a happy image with a sad undertone, which fits the film perfectly but can be read differently depending on what audiences want to be true. It’s a personal film from Gondry and a personal reaction from me, but for me The Science of Sleep has a lot to say about love, and says it in a way that, despite its surreality, has a lot of weight, while also being hilariously funny.
The recipe for a dream draws you right into the film’s strange reality, and Bernal’s genial performance here makes it easier to engage with what is a rather wet character at times.
One second time machine
A perfect Michel Gondry idea; barmy but charming, in a scene that beautifully captures the tone of the whole film
Stephane: Hi, and welcome back to another episode of "Télévision Educative". Tonight, I'll show you how dreams are prepared. People think it's a very simple and easy process but it's a bit more complicated than that. As you can see, a very delicate combination of complex ingredients is the key. First, we put in some random thoughts. And then, we add a little bit of reminiscences of the day... mixed with some memories from the past.
[adds two bunchs of pasta]
Stephane: That's for two people. Love, friendships, relationships... and all those "ships", together with songs you heard during the day, things you saw, and also, uh... personal... Okay, I think it's one.
Stephane: [after giving Stephanie the one second time traveling machine] For the occasion of... you're pretty.
Stephane: I like your boobs. They're very friendly and unpretentious.
Stéphanie: I have big hands.
Stephane: That means you have a large penis.
Stephane: [embarrassed] ... That was inappropriate...
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