Be Kind, Rewind (2008)

Dir. Michel Gondry
Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, etc.

Even I think the score is a bit high, but I don’t care: I really loved this film. Now, I’m going to recommend this film to other idiots, but I can totally understand if others will not like it–indeed, I will be a little surprised if people like it as much as I did. I can see a wide range of opinions towards this film.

This is a movie for fans of movie making and perhaps creativity and art in general. The plot is not really that important, but it basically involves a video store clerk, Mike (Mos Def), who with the help of his friend, Jerry (Jack Black), must recreate movies of erased VHS tapes. There’s also a sub-plot involving the store owner trying to find ways to save the store from a developer. This film is recommended to people who love movies. This is a comedy, and if you liked Gondry’s other films: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Science of Sleep, I’d recommend this.

I loved the way the film celebrated films and filmmaking, in general–and creativity and genuine play, specifically. Mike and Jerry’s “sweded” versions of mainstream films do not have big stars, worldclass directors, incredible special efx or the backing of huge Hollywood film company. What they do have is enthusiasm, creativity (the props deserve at least a nomination for art design) and a lot of fun! As the film develops, Gondry seems to also celebrate the process of filmmaking–especially participation from anyone, irregardless of talent. Participation and fun is what matters, not the actual results. The films may not be great works of art or huge commercial successes. And the films didn’t stop the Hollywood company from destroying them, nor did the films save the video store. But they did bring pleasure to people–both filmmakers and film viewers. I can tend to be cynical, but I found this spirit totally convincing and beautiful.

There’s something else, too. My first reaction to seeing this filim made me think of the way it repudiated Hollywood filmmaking/films. But “repudiates” is too strong word. On further consideration, the film is not out to scold or satirize Hollywood or the capitalist system. The big Hollywood film companies and developers win, but what was so refreshing was that Gondry does not display any bitterness or venom. These things happen and the heroes just move on: they play, have fun; celebrate. I loved that about this film.

All of this overshadowed elements in the film that I would probably consider too silly and stupid for me to enjoy the film. Let me list some of these things: Mike and Jerry’s decision to “re-make” the films and expect that there would be a chance that others would like it; patrons loving the films, including street-wise teenagers! I can’t argue with anyone who would say these plot points were ridiculous. Also, I can understand if viewers had the same feelings towards Jack Black’s antics. (In the context of the film I enjoyed Black for the most part.)

My response is that I personally enjoyed the “sweded” movies. I love movies, and seeing these films “sweded” was hugely entertaining. The low-tech props and solutions to recreating these scenes were inspired and complete delight. I don’t see how anyone who has seen and loved these films would not get a kick out of them.

The other response I would make is that the tone of film is one of whimsy and even elements of fantasy (e.g. Black getting electricuted and magnatized). Gondry is not intending to make a completely realistic film.

One final note. Gondry seems to play with this idea of the past on how, ostensibly in film, we can alter the past. Other films of his have touched on memory and dreams, but I haven’t determined his ideas and attitudes towards them. In this film, I took the mentioning of how the truth can be altered as another reason to celebrate filmmaking and art making in general.

The best film in 2008 for me so far.

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