I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that I am a fan of Michel Gondry, the French music video/movie director. I’m a bigger fan of his videos than his movies, though. He also directed one of my favorite episodes of Flight of the Conchords.
But he’s also done some comic-related things, so for no particular reason, I’ve declared it Michel Gondry Day.
We Lost the War But Not the Battle (Picture Box, 2008) is basically the sort of comic you’d expect from Gondry — a playful sense of “I’m making this up as I go” mixed with a kind of winking, innocent take on sex and violence. It’s the sort of comic a 12-year-old would make — or perhaps the sort of comic a grown man who named his documentary “I’ve Been 12 Forever” would make.
The plot involves four old friends getting called into military service (they got out of it originally by faking various issues, like bed wetting or being suicidal). Nevermind that one of them is dead and is now a walking skeleton.
They have to fight the all-female International Solidarity Army. It goes about as well as you expect (the title should give you a clue).
The art should be familiar if you know Gondry’s work. There’s a looseness about it, as if he was mostly just doodling these pages, but it keeps the whole thing light and fun. The color palette is surprisingly soft and muted.
I’ve read some reviews of this that found it misogynist. And I guess, if you want to see it that way, maybe. But to me, its stance on women is more “Girls are scary because they’re beautiful and smarter than men,” which strikes me as a very 12-year-old thing to think. All in all, it’s pretty ridiculous and goes off on this weird tangent at the end, as if Gondry realized he still had pages to fill.
It’s a fun thing for a Gondry fan to have, but the appeal to anyone else is probably pretty limited.
Gondry’s teenage son, Paul, also made a comic called Crazy Town (Picture Box, 2008). Unlike his father’s comic which reflected the perspective of his inner 12-year-old, this definitely shows a glimpse into the mind of a teenage boy.
While it supposedly follows some sort of rebellion against a dictatorship, that’s pretty much secondary to Paul Gondry’s weird drawings and penchant for let’s-shock-the-grown-ups ultraviolence. It’s very unpolished, each page packed with drawing and rambling dialogue. I know that makes it sound bad, and no, I didn’t think it was great, but there’s still something fun about it. It’s very free and seems to come from highly creative place where anything can and does go. As he gets older, I’m sure Paul Gondry is going to be someone to watch.
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Gondry also contributed “Interior Design” to the trio of short films that make up Tokyo! Based on “Cecil and Jordan in New York,” by Gabrielle Bell (who co-wrote the script). Moving the story from New York to Tokyo works nicely, as the setting reflects the isolation that Hiroko, played by the utterly awesome Ayako Fujitani, feels. Her playful optimism at first arriving in the city with her filmmaker boyfriend is quickly replaced by feeling lost and useless, represented by her transformation into a chair.
While in the comic, the character is just drawn a human in one panel and then a chair in the next, Gondry uses his trademark low-budget effects to show Hiroko’s transition. It’s a surprisingly profound — and a little horrifying. I like Bell’s comic, but I think Gondry’s film expands upon the concepts and communicates them more fully.
I want to see more movies (I know he’s directing The Green Hornet) and comics and really, anything else, from Michel Gondry.
This is probably one of my absolutely favorite music videos of all time. It’s definitely my favorite Michel Gondry video. (And my favorite Daft Punk video, for that matter.) So I leave you with Daft Punk’s “Around the World.”