The filmmaker at the center of Michel Gondry’s new feature film has a love-hate relationship with his latest project. To protect the work in progress from the studio executives who just fired him, he goes into hiding in the country with the four-hour cut, his trusty editor and assistant in tow. And then he can no longer bear to look at the images and sets to work with one tangential undertaking after another. The depiction of procrastination as an essential part of the creative process is one of the joys of The book of solutions (Le Livre des solutions), but on the way to its somewhat satisfying final punchline, this uneven comedy loses its thread.
Loosely drawing on Gondry’s post-production escape from producers when he was making Mood Indigohis first film since 2015’s Charmer Microbe & Gasoline is a portrait of the director as a gifted man child. Central character Marc Becker is inspired, scared, petulant and selfish, and Pierre Niney (Yves Saint Laurent) plays the part with an unlikely cross between the loose limb and the tightly wound. In his certainty and capriciousness, Marc is alternately captivating and maddening. He’s a blessed fool who gets by with more than a little help from his friends, and they happen to be loyal, hard-working women who, with forbearance and exasperation, believe in him and in the movie he says he’s trying to save.
The book of solutions
It comes down to
Not without its clever and quirky pleasures, but the quirkiness is thin.
With editor Charlotte (Blanche Gardin), assistant Sylvia (Frankie Wallach) and the promise of help from studio “video girl” Gabrielle (Camille Rutherford), Marc flees Paris and heads to the country house of his aunt Denise (Françoise Lebrun, the wise and loving heart) in the Cévennes. This mountainous region of Occitania, in south-central France, is dear to Gondry, who conjures up an unfussy sense of rural serenity and community spirit with beautiful, seamless contributions from designers Pierre Pell and Florence Fontaine, DP Laurent Brunet and editor Élise Fievet. . As a base for the on-screen filmmakers, they suggestively use the home of Gondry’s Aunt Suzette, to whom the film is dedicated.
Before it gets repetitive and disjointed in the second half, much about the movie is wise and wonderfully funny. The way in which Marc Denise’s month-long interlude, when she taught inmates decades ago, made life-changing knowledge is a fine example of his propensity for exaggeration. He usually exaggerates the urgency and power of his ideas, which grip him like a fever and demand the immediate attention of everyone around him.
Denise’s house is one of those humble but cluttered stone structures with more than enough bedrooms for everyone. But that doesn’t guarantee the privacy of Marc’s colleagues; he is tempted to barge into a sleeping Sylvia’s room in the middle of the night with his last to-do item for the movie, and after a few grumblings she accepts the challenge of finding, say, a recording studio or an orchestra in the sticks, or enabling Sting’s participation. After enduring a few of Marc’s wee hours of inspiration herself, Charlotte wisely draws a line and moves into a hotel.
The book of solutions goes shaky over the issue of Marc’s mental health. Not long after arriving at Denise’s, he goes off his meds cold turkey, something she warns him about. (It’s a relief if she at least prevents most of his pills from going down the toilet into the water supply.) Whether he’s taken a run-of-the-mill 21st-century cocktail of mood stabilizers or is being treated for something more serious, it’s never clear made, but there’s a strong quality of senses reawakening in Niney’s manic performance. Marc is once again attuned to possibilities, including that of a serious fixer-upper near Denise’s house that he impulsively buys, imagining a movie center where all she sees is “a pile of rubble.”
He’s also something of a tyrant – or at least one who doesn’t feel the need to be diplomatic: his irritation with Charlotte’s assistant, the constantly coughing Carlos (Mourad Boudaoud), is a comical example. In his vanity, Marc has a tendency to catastrophize, and the tantrums he unleashes become tiresome for the audience and his henchmen alike. A poster for a fiction film, caught during the studio sequence that opens the film, could be a nod to his uncompromising self-assurance: Celle Qui Savait (The one who knew).
As for why Charlotte and Sylvia stay with Marc, Gondry provides the character’s hard-to-ignore and sometimes complacent flow of creativity. There’s Marc’s brainstorming about turning the movie into a palindrome – something Gondry’s movie doesn’t do, though it does follow the protagonist’s idea of inserting an animated sequence halfway through. There’s the playful ingenuity in his transformation (with help from Carlos) from an old truck into an editing room – a peace offering to Charlotte after one of his childish outbursts. And then there’s the long-shelf idea from which the film takes its title, and Marc has brought it back to life: a how-to book that offers ways to shake off doubt and let things go. happen — stripped naked and zen in his wisdom, his advice. includes both “Don’t listen to others” and “Listen to others”.
Marc wrestles with his own doubts. It shows in his refusal to even look Everyone Everybody, the movie-within-the-movie where we see a few glimpses of the actor Jacques Mazeran fleeing trouble on a city street. Marc’s doubts about himself and his film are further revealed in voiceover musings that range from the joking to the self-conscious to the unnecessary. Many of these asides undermine his superficial certainty, some express off-the-charts bravura, and at their strongest they do both at once. “Some victories,” he assures us in a moment of triumph, “are so spectacular they don’t need a voiceover.”
When it clicks, the humor is in it The book of solutions is just as perfectly underexposed as Étienne Charry’s enchanting score. Eternal sunshine helmer Gondry is more concerned with character than sheer eccentricity. Still, the proceedings can feel tense in their whimsicality and movie-conscious gambles, especially in the later stages. A bizarre burst of action-thriller hoo-ha centers on one of the execs who spurned Marc’s cunning Everyone Everybody, Max (Vincent Elbaz), the director’s former production partner and now an irredeemable defector in his eyes – and therefore an object of obsession. In contrast to Marc’s slowing tactics, Gondry’s grow more devious – unnecessarily so, when the mundane core of his story, the combination of destitute maker and rock solid collaborators, seems so true.