Don't look now, but French director Michel Gondry might just be establishing himself as one of the greatest visual filmmakers of all time.
"He might be," grinned Jack Black, the latest leading man for the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" director. "There have been some great visualists. But I think he might take the visualist cake."
Gondry has given us iconic music videos (Björk's "Human Behaviour"), genre-defining special effects (he pioneered "bullet time" shots years before "The Matrix"), eyeball-twisting ads (his Levi's "Drugstore" spot has won more awards than any other commercial) and trippy cult classics like "The Science of Sleep." Now he's teamed with Black for "Be Kind Rewind." The film is about two video store clerks (Black and Mos Def) who accidentally erase their tapes, then re-film classics like "Ghostbusters" and "Driving Miss Daisy" using themselves as the actors.
"['Rewind' is fueled by] a love for making films and watching them, but it's more about creating your own movie," Gondry explained. "It's about separating yourself from the film industry, in a way, and deciding that you can create your own entertainment." (There's also the rumor that Gondry appropriated the premise for "Be Kind" from an old clip on Amanda Bynes' show, but the director has yet to comment on that.)
The comedy's characters spice up their remakes with low-budget, high-imagination techniques that show you how to make movies look old-fashioned (strings simulate crackles), fake a person falling from a building (paint the ground to look like a tiny city street, then spin the camera above him) and even blow out a character's brains (turn camera off, insert pizza behind his head, then turn it back on). Basically, they turn themselves into wannabe Michael Gondrys.
"It's the little things, when he's in charge. Like, he created all our props," Black marveled, recalling a scene in which the characters remake "RoboCop" on the cheap. "When we redid that, he said, 'Instead of the robot legs, let's give him the bumper of a car for his legs.' Or, you know when [RoboCop's] gun comes out of his leg, and he gets it? He wanted it to be a gun inside of a toaster, and the toaster would pop it up."
Still, the existence of "Rewind" raises a question: Isn't Gondry killing his own career by exposing the visual trickery that made him famous?
"Whatever," he grinned in response. "They will be taken anyway. It makes me have to come up with new ideas. Sometimes it pisses me off [when other directors steal my techniques], but it's fine. Especially because this film is meant for people who want to make their own films, so of course I invite anybody to copy the techniques."
And once you've done that, you can grab a cheap camera and indulge in what the film calls "Sweding": the process of remaking your all-time favorite movies.
"The 'RoboCop' dude should come out and give me props, because I think I nailed him pretty good," Black said, directing a request to actor Peter Weller. "Jessica Tandy, she's no longer with us, is she? Yeah, she probably wouldn't have been too pleased [with Black playing her in 'Driving Miss Daisy']."
While he may have dodged a bullet with Tandy, however, Black did admit that he might avoid the stars of two other films he remade. "Jackie Chan," he said, thinking back to a "Rush Hour 2" spoof. Then, remembering "Boyz N the Hood," he added, "Ice Cube might be pissed. I don't know."
Asked if actors would consider being Sweded a compliment, Black's co-star Danny Glover insisted, "Of course. I've been Sweded in some sense — at least the image of me has been on 'Saturday Night Live' and other shows."
But which of Glover's many movies would he most love to see Sweded?
" 'Witness' would be a good one," Glover said, referring to his 1985 classic with Harrison Ford. "Unless someone was Sweding me in the bathroom, in that first [murder] scene with the little boy."
"I want to Swede 'Lost in Translation,' " said Melonie Diaz, who appears in "Rewind" as a young actress. "I'd want to be the Scarlett Johansson character. It would be fun to do it."
"I would say 'Nacho Libre' would be fun to see Sweded," Black said. "Just because whoever would be me would have to wear the stretchy pants, and I would get personal joy from that. I want [George] Clooney. Get in there, fancy pants!"
And who knows? If "Be Kind Rewind" is a hit, maybe somebody will want to Swede it someday. "That would be great," Gondry said. "I can't wait to see it."
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.