BE KIND REWIND (Michel Gondry)

I have an affinity for films that tackle about film as an art, and as a cultural identity. So I had no trouble with BE KIND REWIND. This is just the kind of film that puts a smile on your face all throughout.

Danny Glover plays Mr. Fletcher, a video store owner in Passaic, New Jersey who only rents out VHS tapes. The building on which his video store is situated has been declared condemned by the local government, and is given a deadline to make some repairs, or be relocated.

Enter Mos Def who plays Mike, Mr. Fletcher’s trustee on the video store, and Jack Black, who plays his friend, Jerry. When Mr. Fletcher leaves town for a while to attend a commemoration of the life and death of his idol, jazz player Fats Waller (whom he also says to be born on his very building), and also to meditate on what to do to save his video store, he entrusts the video store to Mike, specifically saying to keep Jerry out.

Jerry is the film’s troublemaker. He tries to sabotage a power plant believing it is controlling people’s brains, and ironically, he becomes “magnetized”. He unwittingly causes all the tapes in the store to be erased, which sets out in motion a chain of events that will change the fate of the video store, and of their community.

Mike and Jerry begin “Sweding” popular movies (because they are from Sweden, as they say), filming their own versions of hits like GHOSTBUSTERS, RUSH HOUR 2, and DRIVING MISS DAISY as a means of not getting scolded by Mr. Fletcher. Surprisingly, the people loved their versions and demanded for more.

The studios soon noticed and came in with their seizure order and went and destroyed the tapes. If this doesn’t define irony, Siguorney Weaver plays the big studio corporate bad guy (or girl, for political correctness sake), the same star of GHOSTBUSTERS.

BE KIND REWIND is an astonishing movie because writer/director Michel Gondry not only tells a tale about a community and the small people that inhabit it. He actually presents film as an inescapable part of culture, and a historian of a place’s story.

When Mike and Jerry began Sweding films, you can see why the people loved it; first because they are unique, and then later on because they are set within the neighbourhood they are familiar with, and further on they get to play parts in the inception and construction of the movies. So for them and for most of us, a film is not only entertainment, but a medium of social consciousness.

Gondry makes a lot of comments about film all throughout BE KIND REWIND.  He tackles the narrow classification of modern films as either action/adventure or comedy through Mr. Fletcher’s words and some visual language; he also presents the significance and importance of often disregarded genres (documentaries for example), and; presents another reason why film is a very important medium of entertainment— because it is known as a group entertainment. It is best enjoyed in large numbers of people, usually in dark movie houses, which is exemplified by the ending scene in which the people watch the Fats Waller documentary starring themselves inside the video store, and what a great experience it was. It’s like time stops and just observing the characters during that particular scene envelops you with so much joy that film was ever invented.  

BE KIND REWIND also discusses the technology transition of home movies, from tape to laser disc. I’m sure you experienced that same feeling when laser discs came out and swept the world, and you have that VHS player in your living room. Gondry tackles these subtexts with subtlety, basked among all the humor and the film references.

If a film talks about film this deep, it says a lot about the filmmaker and how much he loves the medium. Like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP, BE KIND REWIND has that light, dreamlike feeling it gives the audience, and after the credits roll you’re still not sure if you’re awake yet.



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