A paean to the 1980's when VHS was king and bad taste (or at least bad judgment) was its hoary mistress - it's Mme. du Barry - Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, the story of two inept buddies (one decidedly more inept than the other) who accidentally erase an entire store of video tapes and are forced (for some inane reason) to "recreate" the lost films using themselves as actors, is the young auteur's first true misstep as a filmmaker. Then again, perhaps misstep is too serious a word to use for a film that, if not very good, is certainly not all that bad.
Definitely nowhere near the "magical" (for lack of a better and less clichéd word) beauty of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep (or even his oft-maligned but durable debut feature Human Nature) Gondry gives us an almost amateur film for his latest - but then amateur actually works with what the film is about. A love story to the video cassette (Danny Glover's video store owner is most likely the last person on Earth yet to succumb to DVD) Be Kind is amateur filmmaking at its very best (sort of). Creating what they call "sweded" bootlegs (most only about twenty minutes long and obviously not the original product at all) our two inept buddies, Mos Def and Jack Black (guess which one plays the decidedly more inept one?) recreate everything from 2001 to Rush Hour 2 to King Kong to the most hilarious rendition of Ghostbusters ever "sweded". In doing so, we see the creation of films inside a film while at the same time yet another film is being made by the characters only they don't know it yet (I'll let you find that out on your own).
Perhaps not as slickly produced as his prior films, one can accept Gondry's amateurish Be Kind Rewind as a statement on media and manipulation (a subject he tackled somewhat in The Science of Sleep) played out in the same "sweded" knock-off way we see in the films inside the film inside the film. Of course that could just be the auteurist in me all full of thoughts of how even the worst Howard Hawks film is better than the best John Huston film. Or it could be a latent nostalgia for the cheapness of 80's cinema and a youth full of VHS memories (in 1984 at 17 I bought my first VCR). Of course then again, this could all be nothing but mistaken bullshit spewing from my mouth and Gondry just screwed up, but in the end, it is what we see that matters, and for good or bad (even purposefully so) what we get in the end is something else. Now the question remains, was that a compliment or was that something else? [02/24/08]