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October 03, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-03

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Tuesday
October 3, 200
arts.michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ART s

5

Alonein the office
TVCLM

"Watch and you'll see ... someday I'll be ... part of your ... world!"

DRE AM THEATER
NEW GONDRY FILM TRIPPED UP BY STYLISTIC DISCORD

By Christopher Lechner
Daily Arts Writer .
In "The Science of Sleep" French film-
maker Michel Gondry's most stylistically
flamboyant and weakly
constructed film to date, ***°<
the director's signature
quirks are clear in every The Science
frame, be it the frequent of Sleep
descents into the main At the
character's dreams or Michigan
the bizarre stop-motion Theater
animation blended into Warner Independent
live-action shots. It's the
sort of offbeat, visually ambitious flair that has
built Gondry a small arsenal of cult enthusi-
asts, but here the director's vision is so intense
and at times so overwrought that the story, for
all its happy playfulness, can't keep up.
Set in a mundane section of Paris, the film
follows Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal, "Bad
Education") as he returns home from Mexico
after the death of his father. An inventive day-
dreamer, Stephane has trouble separating his
many dreams from reality. When he meets his

flatmate, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg,
"21 Grams"), a fellow dreamer who also lets
herself get carried away, the two inevitably
begin a relationship based on sharing their
cutesy imaginations. To its credit, the film
doesn't make their fanciful romance too unre-
alistically easy - the two fight more than they
have fun.
Forgoing CGI, Gondry uses stop-motion
animationforStephane's dreamsequences,and
the technique adds a distinctly child-like feel
to the inner workings of the character's man-
boy mind. But as original as these descents can
be, the disjointed imagery severely disrupts
the narrative. While the frequent interludes
worked to strong effect in "Eternal Sunshine
of the Spotless Mind,' Gondry's most recent
project before this, in "Sleep" they mostly do
nothing to advance the plot.
Still, the film is surprisingly funny, and
much of the credit goes to Garcia Bernal. The
rising talent gives a convincing portrayal of
the young eccentric, and even shows off his
linguistic skills - English, French and Span-
ish, sometimes all in the same scene. Follow-
ing a series of strong performances in "The

Motorcycle Diaries," "Bad Education" and
the forthcoming "Babel," the actor has quickly
become one of the brightest stars of interna-
tional cinema.
All the same, Bernal's character is perhaps
the film's most frustrating flaw. Stephane acts
like a child, but has none of the youthful inno-
cence. In the ebb and flow of his relationship
with Stephanie, he swings between bouts of
narcissism and malice - though he professes
that he loves Stephanie and wants to marry her,
he usually ends up treating her like an annoy-
ing little sister. His character's mercurial tem-
perament never amounts to much, either, and
even in the last scene he doesn't seem to have
changed at all from when we first met him.
"The Science of Sleep" continues Gondry's
path of reality-distorting innovation nicely,
but it never quite works as well as his previ-
ous efforts. Some of the credit for that earlier
success has to go to Charlie Kaufman, who
wrote the screenplay for "Eternal Sunshine"
and "Human Nature," Gondry's last two fic-
tion films. Gondry, meanwhile, wrote "Sleep"
by himself. If only his visual brilliance had
translated to the page.

ince the Daily n
into its tempora
on Huron Street
summer, the world of
copy machines and wa
ers has ensnared us sta
few years earlier than
have hoped. From so
fictional depictions of
staring at glossy
computer screens or
quietly eating lunch
in the confines of
those padded gray
walls, we've always
known the office is a
lonely place, but it's
something else to be
suddenly thrust right
into the thick of it.
In our old build-
ing we worked in
large, open spaces
with people even as fa
as 50 feet fair game fo
tic remarks. But sudde
personal contact is lim
silent wave from the c
any chance encounters
long trek to the printer
But if the office is a
place, it's still nothing
"The Office." The NB
recently crowned outs
comedy series at the E
presents a world wher
ness only begins at the
place and overwhelms
character of every em
The show has always b
humor on the imperso
aspect of the main cha
personality, but while
last week's episode I r
that the significance o
only truly realized by
the show alone.
It's no accident that
is set at a paper-reselli
pany in Scranton, Pen
synonymous with "the
of nowhere." Every as
show espouses emptin
liness and the dark, ex
ponderings its premise
to exhibit so seamless]
acters outside of the p
two or three are momt
creations, not meant to
purpose beyond the jo
and now.
But never did a barr
drop accomplish so m
satire of workplace co
relationships and titles
big difference betweet
regional manager" an
tant to the regional mt
strikes a cord with the
of the modern occupal
enterprise. But in satir
fun is always a means
end, and it's the larger
the show attempts to
make it a uniquely am
and accomplished crc
Of course, the Ame
sion of "The Office," s
Steve Carell as the clu

oved is based on a British show of the
ry offices same title. Though American
over the audiences are fans of the British
cubicles, version, it should come as no
ter cool- surprise that the American ver-
iffers a sion is easier to relate to. Even
we would if it's not always funnier, the
tany American version is savvier at
drones sniffing out social dogmas and
attacking the com-
monplace absurd that
Americans recognize
more readily. When
it comes to any type
of social interaction,
different cultures
have their own little
foibles that can only
be adequately appre-
ciated by those who
IMRAN live them everyday.
SYED And so it follows
that the particulars
x away and colloquials of the British,
r sarcas- American and the upcoming
nly our German and French versions of
tited to a "The Office" vary, but one thing
ubicle and all versions have in common is
on the the stark personal desolation
r. that is the show's paramount
lonely underpinning.
like Cubicle walls and glass
C sitcom, doors only allude to the bare-
tanding ness - they don't compose it.
mrilys, Characters control their social
e empti- interactions and the show
work- expertly jabs at the unconscious
the ways in which we all find ways
ployee. to exclude ourselves. In the
sased its competitive drive to leave the
nal, loner cubicle for the corner office, the
racter's characters have become sad,
watching hollow machines. Of course,
ealized to prove the point, there's one
f its void is character who's different, one
watching who initiates conversation and
pulls practical jokes that demand
the show interaction. Interestingly, this
ng com- one antithesis to the show's
n., long grounding is the one who left
middle the office at the beginning of the
pect of the season.
ess, lone- The show's humor is dark and
istential slight, and demands suspension
has come of a certain quality of humanity
ly. Char- in its viewers, too. Of course,
rimary to laugh at the inadequacy of
ntary others is socially reprehensible.
serve any But, doing so in the context
ke here of fictional characters who so
gracefully embody our subtlest
en back- faults only leads to a swelled
uch. The rational epiphany.
nflicts, But the irony is that you must
(there's a watch the show alone. Its grave
n "assistant hints - often told with little
d "assis- more than a brief glare, slight
anager") camera pan or instantaneous
very tenor hesitation in conversation - are
tional easily lost in group viewing. The
-e, poking epitome of "it matters not what's
never an said but how it's said" to under-
points stand the show's sour, somber
ackle that lessons you have to be alert,
ibitious open and preferably alone.

i

In an ominous cloud of smoke,
the agony and ecstasy of falure
By Caroline Hartmann Walking out on Jan means
Daily Arts Writer forfeiting a bed to sleep on, so
Chinaski picks up Laura (Marisa
Replete with low-key light- Tomei, "Alfie") at a nearby bar. 3
ing, soulful narration and scenes Laura takes him back to her
fogged with perversely abnormal residence,
thick clouds ** owned by a wealthy old "gentle-
of ciga- man" who gladly takes girls in off
rette smoke, Factotum the street. The only thing worse
"Factotum" At the than this unsettling love triangle
belongs to the State Theater is the mansion's chintzy dicor.
genre ofinde- WarnerIndependent Such is the life for Chinaski:
pendent films struggling to make rent, never
that assumes quite sober, tumbling endlessly
screenplays must be dark and through the vicious cycle of ~
dismal in order to be great. unemployment and poverty. "If
It's "amazing how grimly you're going to try, go all the Cuesy af Picturehouse
we hold onto our misery," says way ... It's the only good fight "I'm broke, drunk and haven't shaven in two weeks. I'm a writer
Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon, there is," he says. for sure."
"Crash"), author and "Factotum" But for someone who claims
screenwriter Charles Bukowski's there's nothing left for death to painfully long and unnecessary ing grimy and unkempt, a disap-
fictional alter-ego. Bukows- take away, he doesn't seem to be silences, interrupted only by the pointing payoff for the promise
ki, whose despondent outlook trying very hard. Whether he's puffing of cigars and swigging of of an unconventional its "try and
echoes in every line, is present just too worn down or actually a flasks. The film leaves you feel- never succeed" theme.
in every aspect of Chinaski, but worthless bum, his increasingly
"Factotum" doesn't do the inimi- dull character supports neither
table writer justice. framework.
The film revolves around "People don't need love,"
Chinaski and his droning, mel- Chinaski says. "They need suc- *
ancholy voice. He's the arche- cess of one form or another."
typal writer - chain-smoking, And there's a certain amount of
half-shaven and miserably aloof truth in his statement, seeing as
- who drifts from job to job his dignity is as decayed as the NINTH LECTURE IN THE SERIES
just trying to survive. Whether streets he wanders. But his quest
he's driving an ice delivery truck for success is hardly a tribute to
or inspecting jars in a pickle fac- those who strive for something
tory, Chinaski's downtrodden better in their lives. VIRG1NIA BURRUS
attitude and chronic alcoholism Dillon's performance exerts
usually get him fired. with convincing force, and Professor of Early Church History, Drew University
Chinaski meets Jan (Lili Tay- Taylor's accompaniment pro-
lor, "Six Feet Under"), whose vides a striking glimpse into her
love for him extends only as character's mindset - and ulti-A
far as the bedroom walls. Their mately, her cowardice. Unfortu-
pitifully stagnant relationship nately, the static, anticlimactic
is shot when Chinaski's earn- plot doesn't make enough room
ings from the horse races go to for their craft.
his head. Jan's perceived finan- Aside from a few attempts at
cial inadequacy is more than she eloquent profundity, "Factotum" Tuesday, October 10,2006, 7 PM
can bear. Chinaski's short-lived does little to redeem itself, try- Rackham Auditorium, 915 East Washington, AnnArbor
riches quickly evaporate, but the ing too hard to be edgy but loses for more information please call Near Eastern Studies at
relationship is still destined for direction in the process. The 734-764-0314
failure. majority of its time is wasted on

ation.
rican ver-
tarring
eless boss,

-Syed's biggest hope is to be
a cubicle caddy for all eternity.
E-mail at galad@umich.edu.

I .

1

Sister Luise Radlmeier will receive this year's
Wallenberg Medal for her humanitarian work with
refugee children from Sudan. She will receive the
Medal and talk about her experiences in the
16th Annual
Raoul Wallenberg Lecture
Thursday, October 5, 2006
7:30 pm, Rackham Auditorium
915 East Washington, a
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Meet Sister Luise at a reception in the
lobby immediatelyfollowing the lecture.
Sister Luise Radlmeier is a woman of action. For the past two decades
her personal mission has been to aid a lost generation of Sudanese youth.
When refugee children began to appear on her doorstep in Nairobi, she
acted to provide food, shelter and so much more. Over the years she has
raised the funds to pay for the education and training of more than 1,000
Sudanese refugees.
Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved the lives of tens of thousands of
Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. A 1935 graduate of the
University of Michigan, he is one of our greatest heroes. The Wallenberg
Medal is a humanitarian award given annually in his honor.

4

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