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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

counting down the best films of 2006: No. 1, ‘The Science of Sleep’

WHY IS THIS THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR?: When you see more than 200 movies every year, you see the same stories and the same characters over and over and over again, and the capacity of a film to surprise becomes infinitely more important. No film astonished and delighted — and surprised — me more in 2006 than this one.

HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM THE 112 OTHER ROMANTIC COMEDIES THAT WERE RELEASED IN 2006?: Love is both mysterious, in that we never quite understand where it springs from or why it makes us choose one person over another, yet it’s also ordinary, in that we all feel it. So few films capture the full spectrum of that emotion as Michel Gondry’s beautiful, wacky meditation on it does by tying it up with the creative impulse and by likening it to insanity, as if to suggest that we’re all a little crazy to give in to such maddening feelings, no matter how happy they also tend to make us. Or is insanity — a miserable, joyful, all-encompassing craziness — the inevitable result of giving in to the creative drive, the kind that impels us both to make art and make love?…
Gael Garcia Bernal’s lovestruck artist, frustrated in both impulses, is a mad charmer, and we’re never sure whether the entire film, or most of it, isn’t simply a reverie sprung from his romantic mind’s eye … and we don’t care. Or more to the point, it doesn’t matter whence what we see on the screen sprang. The Science of Sleep demands that we suspend all notions of the boundaries of fiction, and worries about how we’re “supposed” to receive fiction. Gondry’s playful messing with the boundaries between movie and audience, fiction and fancy, enthralls me as much as his “hero,” with his wistful imagination and tender, overprotected heart, seduces me. This is a daring, adventurous film, one that trusts that the viewer is just as daring, just as adventurous.

[Check out my full review of The Science of Sleep here.]

[See the whole best-of list for 2006 here.]

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