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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review of Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind

This review originally appeared in Venus Zine.

Indie filmmaking in the extreme
Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind takes DIY directing to Hollywood

By Melissa Silvestri
Published: March 5th, 2008

Be Kind Rewind is the latest from music video auteur Michel Gondry, known for his childlike imagination and use of cardboard cutouts a la Where The Wild Things Are. Be Kind Rewind’s art imagery borrows from Gondry’s past videos for Bj√∂rk and the Chemical Brothers, but has a DIY aesthetic that attracts the audience into the small world of Passaic, New Jersey. The audience reminisces back to the days before DVDs and Netflix, when the tattered format of VHS ruled.

The film follows Mike (Mos Def) and Jerry (Jack Black), two schmoes living day-to-day without a bright future. Jerry is an auto mechanic and lives in a trailer by the power plant. He’s the main customer at Be Kind Rewind - an old video store in a building that, though a place where Fats Waller once lived, is in danger of being demolished and replaced by a condominium, sending the video clerk Mike and his boss Fletcher (Danny Glover) into the projects.

While Fletcher is out of town, Jerry (having been electrocuted while trying to sabotage the power plant) becomes a “human magnetic field,” inadvertently erasing the films in the video store. As a last-ditch effort to appease the elderly and loyal Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) when she wants to rent Ghostbusters, Mike and Jerry decide to re-do the film as a 20-minute abbreviated version, shot in 2 ½ hours, using vacuum cleaners on their backs, a miniature Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and streamers to imitate the rays from the laser guns.

Their homemade recreation becomes a hit with her nephew and his friends, and they receive requests to re-do other pop-culture classics like Robocop, Driving Miss Daisy, and 2001, calling their style of film “Sweded.” For the female roles, they recruit Alma (Melonie Diaz), a bored dry-cleaning employee, who quickly grasps their enthusiasm and becomes a part of the local phenomenon.

The film drags when the video store is sued by the movie studios for copyright infringement (with Ghostbusters' Sigourney Weaver as the studios’ attorney), and the guys find themselves at a crossroads. It gets a little cheesy and Capra-esque at the end, but the majority of the film is pleasant and enjoyable.

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