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February 28, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

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Michel Gondry - 2008
New Line Cinema 35mm Film

It took almost three months to get me back into a mainstream multiplex. Michel Gondry is one of the more idiosyncratic filmmakers to get a wide release which was my main incentive. And now that I've seen his new film, I'm not sure what Be Kind Rewind is really about in any clear, concise way. What did strike me as interesting was the presentation of a multi-culti America, as well as one that embraced people people of differing generations.

Erich Kuersten at Bright Lights After Dark has already written primarily about the relationship of the male characters portrayed by Jack Black, Mos Def and Danny Glover. Gondry has also chosen to have as his lead female character, Melonia Diaz. There is a quote attributed to Marcel Proust, "Let us leave pretty women to men devoid of imagination." Which is not to say that Diaz is unattractive, but that this round faced, dark eyed young woman should serve as a reminder that lead actresses needn't come from the same cookie cutter. As Alma, the "actress" enlisted to star in the movie remakes, she not only becomes the brains of the group, but maintains her own independence, neither deferring to the men, nor becoming a girl friend or sex object. I had to look up Diaz' filmography to realize I had seen her previously in Raising Victor Vargas.

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And then there is Mia Farrow. Here's proof that she can be quite funny without Woody Allen at the helm. Farrow plays an older woman who's sharper than she is perceived to be, and the one who acts as the catalyst for Jack Black and Mos Def's filmmaking excursions into "Sweded" movies. After seeing some of the videos, one may wish that Michel Gondry remade almost every Hollywood movie from the past twenty-five years. His Ghostbusters with its home-made special effects made me laugh much more than the original. Jack Black may also be noted for starring in Peter Jackson's King Kong, and a second time playing the title role in one of the several film excepts shown.

King Kong sized mythology is part of what Be Kind Rewind explores. The claim that Fats Waller was born in Passaic, New Jersey is false. What informs Gondry's film is a generosity of spirit towards the kind of people usually marginalized in mainstream films. That their sweded films will never be as "good" as Hollywood product is besides the point. It is Gondry's love of his characters that reveals the true size of his imagination.

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Posted by peter at February 28, 2008 12:28 AM


I'm glad you mentioned Melonie Diaz. I thought she was wonderful in this film. She accomplishes quite a lot with very minor moves.

Posted by: fox at March 1, 2008 02:25 AM

thanks for the link!

Posted by: Briggs at March 4, 2008 09:57 PM

I enjoyed most of "Be Kind, Rewind especially the whimsy, the Sweded videos, Mia Farrow and Mos Def, but the casual racism disturbed me. I'm not talking about Jack Black's character's continuous blundering over the race line, with his insistence on playing Fats and his blackface (for which he was rightly scorned), but the way in which his Jackie Chan impression passed without comment. The audience I was with were in stitches laughing at Black squinting his eyes and mispronouncing words; and that made me feel rather uncomfortable. I'm not usually the kind of person who'll point out this kind of stuff, but the racism double-standard really bothered me. I haven't seen many reviewers talking about it either...

Posted by: Catherine at March 6, 2008 12:58 PM

Catherine: My own feeling is that Black was attempting to imitate Chan as he appears in the Rush Hour films and not denigrate Chan in particular, or Chinese actors in general. I think the Rush Hour films overplay racial stereotypes which is one reason I don't care for the series.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at March 6, 2008 09:53 PM