Michel Gondry (born May 8, 1963 in Versailles, France) is an Academy Award-winning French filmmaker, whose works include being a commercial director, music video director, and a screenwriter. He is noted for his inventive visual style and manipulation of mise en scène.
His career as a filmmaker began with creating music videos for the French rock band Oui Oui, in which he also served as a drummer. The style of his videos for Oui Oui caught the attention of music artist Björk, who asked him to direct the video for her song “Human Behaviour”. The collaboration proved long-lasting, with Gondry directing a total of eight music videos for Björk. Other artists who have collaborated with Gondry on more than one occasion include Daft Punk, The White Stripes, The Chemical Brothers, The Vines, Steriogram, Radiohead, and Beck. Gondry has also created numerous television commercials. He pioneered the “bullet time” technique later adapted in The Matrix, (he met Joel Silver, the producer of the movie and he had no choice but accept the deal for a small amount) in a 1998 commercial for Smirnoff vodka, as well as directing a trio of inventive holiday-themed advertisements for clothing retailer Gap, Incorporated.
Gondry, along with directors Spike Jonze and David Fincher, is representative of the influx of music video directors into feature film. Gondry made his feature film debut in 2001 with Human Nature, garnering mixed reviews. His second film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (also his second collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman), was released in 2004 and received very favorable reviews, becoming one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Eternal Sunshine utilizes many of the image manipulation techniques that Gondry had experimented with in his music videos. Gondry won an Academy Award alongside Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth for the screenplay of Eternal Sunshine. The style of Gondry’s music videos often relies on videography and camera tricks which play with frames of reference.
Gondry also directed the musical documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006) which followed comedian Dave Chappelle as he attempted to hold a large, free concert in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. His following film, The Science of Sleep, hit theaters in September, 2006. This film stars Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, and marked a return to the fantastical, surreal techniques he employed in Eternal Sunshine.
According to the Guinness World Records 2004, Michel Gondry’s Levi’s 501 Jeans “Drugstore” spot holds the record for “Most awards won by a TV commercial”. The commercial was never aired in North America because of the suggestive content involving purchasing latex condoms.
He was asked by French comic duet Éric and Ramzy to direct Seuls Two, but declined; by his suggestion, Éric and Ramzy subsequently asked Mr Oizo to direct another movie : Steak.
In September 2006, Gondry made his debut as an installation artist at Deitch Projects in New York City’s SoHo gallery district. The show, called “The Science of Sleep: An Exhibition of Sculpture and Pathological Creepy Little Gifts” featured props from his film, The Science of Sleep, as well as film clips and a selection of gifts that the artist had given to women he was interested in, many of them former or current collaborators, Karen Baird, Kishu Chand, Dorothy Barrick and Lauri Faggioni. A leitmotif of the film is a ‘Disastrology’ calendar; Gondry commissioned the painter Baptiste Ibar to draw harrowing images of natural and human disasters.
His brother Olivier “Twist” Gondry is also a television commercial and music video director creating videos for bands such as The Stills, Hot Hot Heat, Daft Punk and The Vines.
Gondry was an Artist in Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005 and 2006. Later directing the music video for the Paul McCartney song “Dance Tonight”, in which Gondry makes a cameo appearance. Gondry directed “Unnatural Love,” the fifth episode in season two of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. Interior Design one third of the 2008 anthology film Tokyo! was next for Gondry. Interior Design was based on the comic book “Cecil and Jordan in New York” by Gabrielle Bell but was adapted from New York City to Tokyo for the film.
In 2009, The Thorn in the Heart, another feature documentary, was released, it is about Michel’s aunt Suzette and her son Jean-Yves. In 2011, Gondry directed The Green Hornet, a superhero film by Sony starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou and Christoph Waltz; Rogen co-wrote the script. In 2011, he will be the head of the jury for the short film competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
His upcoming film The We and the I has been selected to be screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
On January 3 2013, Gondry released his latest animated short Haircut Mouse on his official Vimeo channel.
Re-Published: Feb 9, 2013