Michel Gondry — director of innovative, eye-popping videos such as his latest for the White Stripes, "The Hardest Button to Button" — isn't resting on his creative laurels. He's putting the finishing touches on his second feature-length film, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
"For me, it is very important not to repeat myself — go to a place I haven't been [creatively] before," Gondry said at the New York edition of Resfest, which closed with a retrospective of his work. "If the project is challenging, then it is more interesting personally."
"Sunshine," a dark psychological comedy, is set for release on March 19 and reunites the auteur with idiosyncratic "Adaptation" screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who penned the original script for Gondry's feature debut, "Human Nature." The movie stars Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood and Kate Winslet and concerns a man who elects to undergo an experimental surgery to have his memories removed after his girlfriend does the same.
"[Kaufman's] scripts had a lot of recognition [initially], but people never dared to make them," Gondry said. "Spike [Jonze] and I were the first ones to give [Kaufman] a chance. So now I think he feels safe working with us."
While Carrey and Winslet play estranged lovers, veteran actor Tom Wilkinson ("In the Bedroom") portrays the doctor who ascribes to the motto "ignorance is bliss" by erasing his patients' unhappy memories. Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst play Wilkinson's technicians.
A mock advertisement Lacuna Inc., the company headed by Wilkinson's character, can be found at lacunainc.com. Much like the fake voicemail that Paul Thomas Anderson created for Tom Cruise's misogynistic character in "Magnolia," the site purports to be for a real medical firm that can help visitors book mind-erasing procedures.
While Gondry has worked with plenty of A-listers, there is one star who keeps alluding him: Michael Jackson. "'Butterfly,' I think, is one of [Jackson's] best songs ever, and I've asked millions of times to do a video for him [for that song]," the director said. "I've even said I'd do it for free, and I get no response."
Ultimately, it may matter little, as Gondry — who has lensed six videos for Björk and three for the White Stripes — has a fondness for sticking with the same creative peers. After he's finished with "Sunshine," Gondry will once again work with his "Human Nature" stars Patricia Arquette and Rhys Ifan on his third feature, "The Science of Sleep," which will also include Drew Barrymore.
"I like [forging] relationships with artists where you build a trust that is comfortable and you can both grow," Gondry said. "Without it, you have to convince people that you understand their artistic intentions."
Based on a story he wrote, Gondry said "Sleep" would be aesthetically more akin to his video work and described the plot as concerning "a man who learns to manipulate his dreams and then ends up being trapped in them." The film is set to start production in 2004.
In the interim, a DVD compilation titled "The Work of Director Michel Gondry" will be available on October 28.