Screenwriter: Michel Gondry
Running Time: 101 mins
Released: Feb 22nd
Cinema is the ultimate democratic art form, from the hundreds of unseen hands behind each production to the darkened mass viewings upon their release. Strange then, in the continued era of labelled auteurism that it is indie's super star director, Michel Gondry, who has created this ode to the social medium and its heart warming effects on community. There is no doubt that Be Kind Rewind is a Michel Gondry film; it harbours the director's ingenuity with visuals, showcased with such success in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but there are also moments of disillusion from his less than perfect script.
Mos Def and Jack Black are the comedy duo, Mike and Jerry, in charge of looking after Danny Glover's video store for a few days. There is conflict between Mike, the responsible quiet one and mad cap Jerry who plans to sabotage the local electrical power grid which he claims is interfering with his brain. Following his ensuing dance with electrical bolts, Jerry becomes magnetised and inadvertently wipes all the VHS tapes in the store. Remember when you had to be careful not to magnetise your video collection? The concept of having to rewind your films, or push a tab so as not to tape over them seems like the cult-ish superstitions of a weird religious sect. Now this near defunct technology is remembered with a good dose of nostalgia and fuzzy screen interference.
Mythologizing the past is effectively what the scenario of Be Kind Rewind is about. A recurring theme is that the legendary Fats Waller was born in the video store's building and this becomes the crux in which the community rally around. The point is that stories, i.e. Films, are an important part of our culture and through them we can reinvent ourselves, as Mia Farrow states “we make our own history.” It's all rather idealist, but its heart's in the right place and when it comes to remaking the classic Ghostbusters there is a spark of excitement in watching their inventive approach to low budget filmmaking. This is where the Gondry effect really comes into its own, with a host of childish tricks to recreate Hollywood's finest mainstream. The complex naivety of the visual tricks, including pizzas for pools of blood, tinsel for lasers, cardboard cut outs and shifts in perspective are as enjoyable to watch as Gondry's previous incarnation as a music video director. He even makes up a word for it; Sweded. “Swede, like Sweden?” a neighbourhood kid asks, “It's a country not a verb.” “Exactly” replies Jerry, “that's why it's expensive, because it's an expensive, far away country.”
Jack Black is on top form doing what Jack Black does best; being a manic fool, but Mos Def's performance is more refined as a tragic/comic figure. It's just unfortunate he isn't given more to do with his doleful, expressive face, as the character stories in between the camcorder magic are a little undercooked. Be Kind Rewind is great fun to watch, like seeing your friends making horror homage’s aged 13 (everybody did that, right?) but the experience is limited because you are stuck in the audience watching a bunch of paid actors knowing it's a false set up. However, inspiring thousands of bedroom filmmakers with its 'can do' attitude, surely isn't a bad thing.
For true inspiration check out 'the Raider' guys.