Interview with Michel Gondry Aug, 26 2006 NYC
Aug, 26 2006 NYC
This is the first interview that I conducted professionaly (for pay!!) and although it will be published in La Tempestad (a Mexican magazine), I saved it here.
D.- Where would you dream to be interviewed someday and by whom?
MG.- Let's go and do the interview in a Jacuzzi.
D.- A what?
M.G- Jacuzzi, a bubbly bath.
D.- With whom?
MG.- With you, lets do it in the Jacuzzi.
D.- Right now? Then I can't bring the paper (questions).
M.G. You have to remember, it's better not to read your questions. You just have to listen to me talk and see your inspiration.
(I blush, recover and convince him that I have a structure to the interview and that no matter what he says, we will be fine)
D.- When you were a boy, what did you dream of becoming?
M.G. - I think I wanted to be an inventor or an illustrator or a painter. I didn't think there were options to be a filmmaker. There was the thing that you would see in a movie theater but you really didn't talk much about the director and what he had to do to be a director. So I never thought of being a director.
Only I had the camera, my friend had a super 8 camera and I would do experimentation with stop motion and I started to develop ideal techniques without thinking I could use them for a movie.
D.- Just to play around...
M.G.- Yeah just. I really liked experimentation, the idea to shoot frame after frame and then watch them all together and then take life.
D.- Are you a TV person or a book person?
M.G. - No, I was a TV guy. I wish I had read more. I read a little bit, but I was always creative. TV was much more limited, it was communist. I was like three... first it was one channel and then it was only three channels and one was in black and white. I remember when the second channel opened and it was in color and all the rainbow of colors coming on screen and so and its funny when I say it was communist, it was really dimension, the state and government were really full hands on to control what was going on. But the good side was that it was not bombarded by the commerce, they didn't think that TV was a huge moneymaker as it is now. All TV shows for kids were much more poetic, a lot of them were made in collaboration with Eastern European countries like The Little Lion, and they were way more poetic than the things that happen now and it was a good antidote to Walt Disney. Not that I didn't like Walt Disney, I remember enjoying Bambi, crying to Bambi. Those animations (French ones) where so romantic, not romantic but poetic. The thing was that they always had a message in them like everything that is communist has to give a special message so pure in the craft that they were magical.
D.- Have you seen Wondershowzen?
M.G. - (smiles) Yeah, Yeah!
D.- What do you think about this show?
M.G. - I like the show, it’s a little hmm, well, I don't like when they mock people. They push people to their limit and people loose their nerve and I don't like that because they basically always people, always making them uncomfortable. (Changes tone) I think it's great. I really like the look of it how they mix up the video, the filmclips and everything. The kids are really funny but sometimes when they do the interviews, the guys is gonna end up loosing his nerve ehh, so one day they're gonna get beat up, basically because I had a like a Jackass for instance a really, I don't understand why you put on TV something if its to write Don't do this at home. If you don't want kids to do it, just don't show it then. Why do you show it like its been so provocative. But in fact is so conventional all the people wind up being highly trained and its super surrendered, and its highly controlled, so its totally not subversive. That's little bit the problem with MTV. It's always act as subversive, but its the voice of the power, of convention. There is advertising of the army all the time.
D.- But now people have YouTube
M.G. I think YouTube is great! It's their end (MTV's) It's not gonna make money anymore, but who cares.
D.- It's better because you choose what you see.
M.G. Yeah, if you want to produce something, you produce it and put it there. It's great, I like YouTube. I spend a lot of time there.
Art and Drawing
D.- Could you draw a map of your mind?
M.G. Yeah, sure. Can I get some paper? (to his publicist)
see drawing. Most of the space is taken by his childhood home in Versailles, France.
D. - Has your creativity or imagination been enhanced by any psychedelic drugs? When I asked this question, I turned off the recording device because I thought that maybe he might feel uncomfortable talking about this. I warned him about the question and he immediately told me that there was no reason for me to turn off the recording because he has never taken any drugs (but sleeping pills). He explained how he would ask his junkie friends about the effects of psychedelic drugs and then he would try to imitate that in his music videos. Then he pushed record himself...
M.G.- When I was a kid, I was really in love with Janis Joplin. I was a huge fan of her and she was dead since I was 10 yrs old, when I discovered her. I read her books. The books that her secretary wrote about her life and I had a very strong representation of what you put yourself through when you use drugs and the sadness of it, and the fact that she was dead. So really, it made me, had me very early a strong mind against drugs. Actually I never smoked (cigarettes) as well because I remember when I was in cinquieme, right when I was thirteen, and you first start to smoke in the bathroom. I was like, those guys have personality problems. They have to smoke to look cool like they're not happy with themselves. Even if I had some personality problem I would not want people to know it. To them they were looking cool, but to me it was like somebody came in ohh, with a personality issue. It's like I would never wear a hat for aesthetics.
D. As if you were wearing a flag
M.G.- I am this, I am that. I feel I have to earn who I am by what I am, not by what I wear. It's funny because my son (Paul, 15 years old) wears hats, and he's very cool looking all the time and my son is a different character but I think he's gonna be more tempted to smoke than I ever was.
D. It's different times!
M.G. I think it's different times and there’s a type of personality that he has , that its more about his friends opinion, which were important to me but I would never cheat to earn it. I have to earn it by who I am, who I was. So I was always super discreet in my way of dressing. I mean I think I have probably, my way of dressing has been consistent like I wear old man's shoes a lot of times, stuff like that.
(Bebe, the personal publicist lets me know that my time is up)
D.- I often describe you as a magician… Were you around magicians much when you were growing up?
M.G. - Yeah, I did magic tricks. I was not as good as I would have liked to be cause there is a manipulation process that I don't know really well how to do. You have to have the confidence to overcome failure, which scares me. Like a magician need to be ready if something goes wrong to do something to improvise. Bit I did a little magic show with my best friend, I remember my brother was stupid at the time when you keep saying like passing stuff under the table and we pull the cloth like that (he is moving his hands) you know to reveal me, trying to do so it was a bit of a prick at this age but I always liked magic, but I don't like magicians manipulating people like David Blaine.
I like the real magicians and their manipulation. The on who are the craft of the art and they are not pretending they're . What he does -David Blane- is controlling the media. He's gonna find somebody who's gonna believe something incredible and then gonna claim everywhere that magic happens and then he controls people's opinion and its because he's bad and he controls the media but, it's not very humble and I think it's boring to see him in a plastic cage.
D.- Where you influenced by (Georges) Melies? I think you are the Modern Melies.
M.G. - I like this comment of course!
D.- People have told you, haven't they?
M.G. Yeah, some people. One time a guy said opposite letter of George Melies (GM) and I am MG so obviously I like his inventivity and the fact that he was self sufficient and had his own studio and he made everything himself it’s really encouraging.
D.- Where do you sleep best?
M.G.- (Long pause) Maybe in the countryside sometimes? It's so hard, I don't sleep good.
M.G.- I take sleeping pills because I'm gonna shoot and I need to rest but then I try to stop taking them and I sleep even worse. People tell me to do yoga, but its kinda boring maybe I should exercise. I have my bicycle.
D.- Do you ride in New York?
M.G. It's nice, I guess it's dangerous but it's really quick and nice.
D.- In Brooklyn?
M.G. I had a girlfriend in Brooklyn. I used to visit her in the bicycle it was great! I would take her in the bridge and she knew I would come, ha ha. The Williamsburg bridge.
D.- I heard you shot The Willowz video there (in Williamsburg, Brooklyn).
M.G.- All right then! (Joyful) I love them. They're so good. I don’t know why they are not bigger? They are genius, when I saw them in concert for the first time two weeks ago, it totally blew my mind out.
D.- I really liked the video!
M.G.- Oh yeah yeah!
D.- You have good taste. You chose them?
M.G. Yeah, it's funny because I was supposed to use The White Stripes music for Eternal Sunshine.. but they were too expensive, so someone said, this guys are great, you should listen to them and I listened to them and they were just great.
D.- and you play them in the movie (Science of Sleep)
M.G.- Yeah, in the new movie and its in the soundtrack and everything.
D.- How was Gael?
M.G.- Ohh, it's all about that too!
D.- That's a good choice, he's cute.
M<span style="font-weight:bold;">.G. - Yeah, he's cute and he's very happy and funny and is really good for his character and has a great range of acting. He would just make everybody happy on the set, which is really... He highly values friendship, its very important to him.