Michel Gondry at MIT – Advanced Screening of Be Kind Rewind

On the 4th of February I got to see a preview screening of BE KIND REWIND, at MIT. It is Michel Gondry’s newest creation and will come into a cinema near you, tomorrow on the 22nd of February. Michel Gondry was also at the preview screening for a Question & Answer session.

Be Kind Rewind Ticket

The movie was a blast! (you can read a previous article about the movie on my blog here)

Be Kind Rewind
Be Kind Rewind Footage

Continuously thinking about my project CINEATRIX, while already standing in line for the preview screening of Be Kind Rewind, then obviously during the movie and then looking forward to the Question & Answers session, I was quite nervous when it got to the point when the following happened:

„Well, that sounds like a great idea!“

~ Michel Gondry on CINEATRIX

I had a minute to explain over the microphone that was put up near my seat after the showing to explain to Michel Gondry what CINEATRIX was all about. In the end I asked him if he could give me some advice, his answer was:

„Now, just stay motivated and let things happen in front of the camera, without taking to much control from behind the camera.“

~ Michel Gondry on CINEATRIX

To see Michel Gondry’s new movie Be Kind Rewind and to then hear him talk about his works and life was quite amazing. The lecture hall was packed and there were some good questions being asked during the Q&A session. Michel Gondry also said that he loves coming back to MIT. Through my research for this article I found that he was actually a so called „artist-in-residence“ at MIT! Here is a little excerpt of a recently published WIRED article about Michel Gondry:

Gondry spent 2005 as an artist-in-residence at Nerdland. That’s the name his 16-year-old son bestowed on MIT, which invited Gondry there to pursue his interest in neuroscience. „They understand the connection between science and the arts,“ Gondry says of the school. „It’s very blurry. It was brainstorming all the time.“ At MIT, Gondry tried out some unusual notions about special effects. His idea was to combine digital technology and chemistry. „People are always thinking to make everything digital,“ Gondry says. „The key would be to do an interface between the digital, for the control, and the chemical, for the reaction. If you can get the two worlds together, you can make the best effects ever.“ In one experiment, for instance, Gondry mixed up a paste of cornstarch and water. He placed the paste on a plate and wired it to a speaker, then added a strobe light. By changing the speaker’s frequency, he created reverb on the plate, and the concoction bubbled and spewed into strange and beautiful shapes.

Sounds like an eighth-grade science project. But keep in mind that this same mad scientist pioneered the technique known as bullet-time four years before The Matrix. That bit of inspiration happened after Gondry saw computerized morphing (think of the T-1000 robot in Terminator 2). Instead of merging one person into another, though, Gondry wanted to morph shots of a scene from different perspectives into one take. He placed cameras around the studio to „freeze“ the action, then had the shots digitally composited so that the environment appeared to revolve around the center. It took three weeks to complete six minutes of effects, incorporating more than 1,000 digital morphings and several freeze sequences. The result was an award-winning 1995 Rolling Stones music video, „Like a Rolling Stone.“ „Michel has this technical side,“ says his brother and collaborator, Olivier Gondry, who helped him develop the effect. „He is not especially good with a computer, but he is very good at imagining what a computer can do and then finding the person who can do it.“

Gondry Self Portrait

I wish I could have talked more with Michel Gondry about CINEATRIX and his work and future projects, but of course that was not possible. As a sidenote, the room was also packed with bodyguards that filmed he audience with infrared cameras during the viewing, for any recording devices that might have been smuggled in (if they had made it by the security check at the entrance of the classroom).

Anyways, I was very glad and honored, which I told Michel Gondry at the beginning of my question, to have been able to speak with this amazing artist for at least about a minute!

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