Five Favorite Films

Michel Gondry's Five Favorite Films

The director of Microbe and Gasoline chats about his new movie, the appeal of surrealism, and translating dreams to film.

by | July 8, 2016 | Comments

From his innovative music video work for artists like Björk, Daft Punk, and the White Stripes to feature films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind, French director Michel Gondry has consistently demonstrated a knack for dreamlike visuals and poetic sentimentality, and he’s earned quite a fanbase in the process. In 2004, Gondry took home an Oscar for his Eternal Sunshine screenplay, and the film remains one of the most beloved of its decade.

His latest effort is Microbe and Gasoline, a small coming-of-age film partly based on his own adolescent experiences that centers on a young friendship between two outcast boys and incorporates touches of Gondry’s trademark DIY aesthetic. He was kind enough to speak with RT about his new movie, why surrealism appeals to him, and what films inspired him to become a director. Read on for Michel Gondry’s Five Favorite Films.

L'Atalante (1934) 100%

L’Atalante from Jean Vigo. I discovered this film when I started to have growing interest in movies. That movie is from the 1930s. It was shot with very little money, and the director was sick. I mean, it’s pure poetry. This movie, it’s a very simple story, and you have Michel Simon, who plays an amazing character. It’s just a great combination of a vision that’s close to surrealism and a Grecian film look. It’s extremely touching.

Surrealism seems to be a hallmark of your films. What is it about it that appeals to you?

Well, it’s sort of a freedom of expression. You don’t have to justify your choice, like you write an idea, and you shoot the idea the way it comes to you. So it reflects what’s in your head without the filter of intellectualization. It takes you to the most unexpected places.

Groundhog Day (1993) 96%

I would say Groundhog Day. It’s an amazing concept, but that can apply to everyday life, on the river of life. Many times, you say, you wake up and you have the same day. It’s a great concept that leads to a lot of sentiment and humor. And of course, Bill Murray is genius.

Kes (1969) 100%

I would say Kes by Ken Loach. It’s a story about a 12-year-old kid in the middle of England in a very poor area. He finds a kestrel – it’s like a small eagle – and tries to tame it. He goes to the library and steals a book about how to tame and educate a kestrel. And there is this scene – he’s always dismissed in class; he has nothing to say – and one time the teacher asks each pupil to tell a personal story. Every pupil has something really flat to say, and suddenly he stands up and he tells his story about his kestrel, and he becomes animated and he’s completely inspired, to the point that his teacher comes to see his bird.

The Gold Rush (1925) 100%

I would say The Gold Rush. I mean, I pick this one, but I love all the body of work of Chaplin. He takes some very dramatic moments or situations and he finds hilarious elements in it. And then, the choreography of the scenes is just amazing all the time. And I think the way he thinks influenced me. Not saying that I am Charlie Chaplin, but I think it was so inspiring – I watched all his films when I was very young, and I think it shaped my vision of film.

Mes Petites Amoureuses (1974) 83%

I’m going to say My Little Loves by Jean Eustache. It’s not an inspiration, but I thought of it when I shot Microbe and Gasoline. It’s the story of a 12-year-old kid who was raised by his grandmother, and then his mother takes him back, and she really doesn’t like him. His experiences in school – he’s trying to find a girlfriend. It’s shot in a very simple and honest way. And this kid was my age, so when I see him in the film in that location, it really could have been me. Jean Eustache was one of the greatest filmmakers in France, but he made maybe three or four movies.

Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: Much of Microbe and Gasoline is taken from your own life experiences. You’ve always made films that felt personal, but what prompted you to make such an autobiographical movie now?

Michel Gondry: Well, I think that The Science of Sleep is as personal, but it was a present-time story that I was depicting. This one is from the past, from when I was 14. I always look for something to play when I do a movie, and sometimes it’s just because I want to do a movie and I’m looking for a subject. Also, if I do it about myself, it’s going to be easier, because I know what I’m talking about. If I talk about the present time, it’s just going to be about a director. So I go further in the past, and I end up looking at my adolescence.

I explore details — there is some nostalgia, there is some trying to understand how I became who I am. Just to create an adventure that I wish I had done but I didn’t do. That’s one of the reasons to make a film, just to create a world in which you make things happen that would not happen in real life.

Rotten Tomatoes: There are few directors who are able to capture the visual language of dreams quite the way you do, and to bring those visuals into the real world so seamlessly. I know that comes with a lot of experimentation, and I’m wondering if you’ve ever tried to bring something you had in mind to life, and couldn’t figure out a way to make it work.

MG: Well, for instance, in The Science of Sleep, I didn’t want to have this hand-made animated universe for the dreams. I wanted to make them really real, with a lot of complicated digital special effects, but we couldn’t afford it, so that’s why I switched to something more hand-made, which probably was better. But yes, there are things you cannot do for scenes from dreams.

Rotten Tomatoes: Speaking of dreams, do you — or did you ever — have recurring dreams?

MG: Yes, I have many. And, as well, I have locations in my dreams to which I return. I can remember maybe 10 or 20 locations even when I’m awake that really exist in my head when I dream. I keep going back to them. In Microbe and Gasoline, there is a dream near the end, when they take the plane and the plane flies backwards, going higher at the level of the houses, and that’s a dream I have all the time.

Microbe and Gasoline is currently playing in limited release.

Tag Cloud

green book Spring TV Image Comics History Calendar Universal Action satire Stephen King 21st Century Fox Extras TLC streaming based on movie 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards comedies Trivia 1990s Superheroes anthology finale video on demand Elton John joker TCA TIFF Broadway Baby Yoda jamie lee curtis GLAAD Grammys Rocky Pop NBA marvel comics laika Disney Plus theme song young adult slasher women Comedy Central game of thrones Summer Britbox 24 frames Cosplay hollywood a nightmare on elm street latino 99% First Reviews transformers Tumblr franchise Avengers war Marvel Television Alien ViacomCBS Shudder new star wars movies breaking bad Pride Month Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vampires Tarantino Adult Swim television MSNBC TV Land HBO FXX Polls and Games Walt Disney Pictures GoT movies kaiju Best and Worst new york 72 Emmy Awards Fox News adventure Amazon Prime Television Critics Association ABC LGBT Winners Pop TV BBC One Netflix Christmas movies Amazon Prime Video 2021 BET Awards Trophy Talk Classic Film Mudbound TCM 73rd Emmy Awards OneApp Musical lord of the rings Biopics 2016 TCA 2017 Hallmark Christmas movies RT21 ABC Family Interview Character Guide mission: impossible Super Bowl scene in color toy story Martial Arts documentaries dceu hispanic heritage month 2017 Tomatazos twilight GIFs docudrama reviews Mary Tyler Moore true crime cancelled hist pirates of the caribbean Hulu dragons Sony Pictures movie thriller 2020 black Arrowverse psycho comic books football Rocketman USA blaxploitation renewed TV shows Vudu medical drama indiana jones The Walking Dead Comedy The Academy rom-coms prank blockbuster kids comic italian documentary target Anna Paquin 45 LGBTQ Oscars Dark Horse Comics new zealand Mindy Kaling Columbia Pictures Sundance Lucasfilm YouTube Red deadpool Tokyo Olympics godzilla fast and furious cancelled television australia Fantasy Music high school free movies directors SDCC YA Discovery Channel dogs HBO Go rt archives debate The Arrangement Pixar Awards Tour Starz FX royal family cartoon NBC jurassic park king arthur cars universal monsters name the review biopic New York Comic Con hidden camera space toronto canceled TV shows Masterpiece BET crime Amazon Acorn TV Brie Larson critics sitcom period drama See It Skip It die hard award winner First Look Ghostbusters Epix Valentine's Day monster movies Mystery Set visit stoner book suspense razzies disaster DirecTV Winter TV Pet Sematary versus Showtime The Purge christmas movies japanese WarnerMedia Spectrum Originals Nominations Esquire CMT historical drama Nickelodeon criterion obituary comics Marathons 20th Century Fox mutant VH1 MCU zero dark thirty Apple TV Plus Comic Book TCA Awards TruTV romantic comedy concert cancelled TV series Quiz VICE A24 scary movies Creative Arts Emmys superhero natural history Drama TCA Winter 2020 Chernobyl fresh Red Carpet Star Wars revenge 2018 Exclusive Video VOD festival Country zombie marvel cinematic universe Crunchyroll Syfy critic resources dramedy Christmas sports olympics rt labs critics edition foreign composers tv talk Food Network Heroines X-Men TV renewals Sundance TV romance comiccon book adaptation video Podcast live action E3 Holiday Holidays slashers Binge Guide comic book movie cinemax children's TV teaser MTV The Walt Disney Company CBS All Access dark popular Kids & Family chucky Musicals Tubi dexter Ovation 93rd Oscars news travel reboot CW Seed Pacific Islander Marvel Studios Star Trek Captain marvel Pirates DC streaming service batman HBO Max king kong festivals all-time Thanksgiving richard e. Grant superman james bond Writers Guild of America telelvision Rom-Com Nat Geo Opinion Apple TV+ screenings Election IFC game show APB CNN strong female leads Photos golden globes Paramount 2015 justice league aapi what to watch PlayStation ghosts cooking Mary poppins Wes Anderson Premiere Dates Lifetime Christmas movies Cartoon Network Hallmark biography rotten movies we love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt rt labs Schedule halloween tv Video Games Infographic wonder woman anime series TV ID mcc discovery Western adaptation Spike Animation Sci-Fi Shondaland El Rey archives The CW spanish language canceled ratings BAFTA TNT kong Watching Series Lionsgate serial killer ABC Signature SXSW 90s science fiction Sundance Now sequel YouTube Endgame Travel Channel social media casting trailers spider-man rotten Paramount Plus Fall TV spinoff elevated horror PaleyFest Legendary RT History spy thriller IFC Films unscripted Paramount Network quibi boxing Film Festival Horror political drama Toys BBC America TV movies Mary Poppins Returns cops child's play BBC technology feel good heist movie crime drama sag awards dc Warner Bros. PBS japan blockbusters Song of Ice and Fire Rock international comic book movies sequels Fox Searchlight Black History Month Reality Emmys Disney Channel talk show Black Mirror gangster werewolf crossover Crackle Logo Bravo zombies independent E! Emmy Nominations Cannes DC Comics Sneak Peek YouTube Premium DGA Marvel Freeform legend remakes cults saw crime thriller supernatural aliens spanish Turner know your critic FX on Hulu worst Disney robots Apple ITV adenture CBS psychological thriller Family doctor who posters USA Network police drama docuseries binge streaming movies A&E Countdown Certified Fresh Funimation Superheroe NYCC french cats golden globe awards stop motion FOX nature classics parents worst movies Turner Classic Movies indie best 71st Emmy Awards WGN spain halloween screen actors guild Netflix Academy Awards Television Academy Trailer Ellie Kemper American Society of Cinematographers TV One 2019 San Diego Comic-Con singing competition hispanic witnail Comic-Con@Home 2021 DC Universe Year in Review films diversity cancelled TV shows venice nfl The Witch National Geographic miniseries politics Film mockumentary south america boxoffice stand-up comedy Comics on TV President Hear Us Out emmy awards facebook Peacock Box Office ESPN asian-american harry potter Amazon Studios basketball Women's History Month Reality Competition action-comedy TBS AMC 4/20 Disney streaming service Disney+ Disney Plus OWN Teen animated SundanceTV scorecard Lifetime nbcuniversal Awards 007