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The Science of Sleep

France’s Michel Gondry — best known for directing music videos for Bjork and Beck, commercials for Smirnoff and the Gap, and movies for audiences willing to take the meandering (Human Nature) along with the mesmerizing (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party) — doesn’t see the world the way the rest of us do. This is all to the good, especially in the wildly inventive Science of Sleep, which takes place mostly among the cascading dreams in Gondry’s head. Using the ardent and appealing Mexican actor Gael Garc’a Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Motorcycle Diaries) as his stand-in, Gondry visits the real world only as a takeoff point. Bernal plays Stephane, a shy artist who returns to Paris to live with his mother (Miou-Miou) after his father’s death. Mom gets him a dull job setting type, which only inspires him to greater flights of romantic fancy, involving a neighbor named Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and a series of fantastical visions that jump off the screen as they obliterate all traces of the mundane. Fusing animation and live action with a series of outrageous props, Gondry veers dangerously close to being precious. But make no mistake: Gondry’s hallucinatory brilliance holds you in thrall.

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