Cole Drumb February 22, 2008
Michel Gondry is a filmmaker who has not been tamed by the movie-making industry. He continues to lead a fearless campaign to see what is possible through visual experimentation within the confines of a feature film. There are a lot of directors who like to think they are plugged into “the New,” but who degenerate into stuffing a script into an edited box-frame of tripod shots and the now-ubiquitous steadicam being battered around like a volleyball. Gondry’s latest film Be Kind Rewind is a comedic romp with a winking manifesto encouraging the audience to Swede — that is, to remake a feature film on a budget amounting to zero. Personally, I’m more a fan of this idea than I am of the hootenanny known as Dogma 95. At least with Sweding, you don’t have to be “approved” and there are no “certificates.” You just have a love for a film (all within the laws of copyright, of course) and want to show some form of appreciation.
One of the more famous examples of this art form is Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. Three kids — Eric Zala, Chris Strompolis, and Jayson Lamb — spent more than seven years filming a shot-for-shot recreation of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, their audacious recreation even includes the rolling boulder sequence and Indy hanging off the front grill of the truck. The Adaptation has screened at multiple film festivals. The rights to their story have been optioned and a film is in development after Spielberg gave the kids his official blessing. For some quick samples of their achievement, check out these three clips.
Another well-known Sweding that grew directly from Hollywood was in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, when the main character, Max Fischer, produces stage adaptations of various classic Hollywood hits. In my brief search I couldn’t find the original Max Fischer Theater clips from the film, but it’s safe to say that this nearly-perfect gem succeeded partly due to the brilliant Sweding of the theater troupe.
Then there’s the great animation site, Angryalien.com, which produces 30 second reenactments of entire films, with all characters portrayed by animated bunnies. My all-time favorite happens to be Alien. Then there’s Jaws. (And note, by the way, that even the shark is wearing bunny ears.) The set-up doesn’t do the site and the films justice. Most are drop-dead hilarious. Who knew bunny ears could be so funny?
It’s easy to argue that all of these examples were made before Gondry came up with the term “to Swede.” It still doesn’t change how brilliant each of the projects are in their own right. And as for Gondry, he’s already made his mark in film — if not for his very uneven filmography, then for the fact that he officially developed the now-too-often-used bullet-time effect that became famous with The Matrix and was used to stunning effect in the Rolling Stones video “Like a Rolling Stone.” When you are so intent on surpassing the norm and trying new things, not every experiment will work — but that’s part of the challenge for an innovator like Gondry. He’s not afraid to make mistakes; he just keeps pushing forward. Even in those rare cases when one of his films doesn’t completely work, his partial failures are more entertaining than almost anything else you’ll find at your local multiplex.
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