The We and The I
TIFF Bell Lightbox May 17, Vancouver in June.
Michael Gondry’s surreal directing choices has included Please Be Kind Rewind, The Green Hornet, The Flight of the Conchords, The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and concert films for Bjork, Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers and Dave Chappelle. What? The French filmmaker’s métier, the places the bridge and tunnel people go from Manhattan is the setting for The We and The I, the world of Please Be Kind and others. The films are remarkably intimate, conceived and made on a tiny scale and set in just one or two places. The people there are just folks having another day. As opposed to The Green Hornet or Spotless Mind.
The We and The I is set on a Bronx city bus, jammed with highschoolers and a few brave regular citizens on the last day of school. The teens are bursting with excitement; school’s done and the world awaits. Some aren’t quite as hopeful as they go through their situations that day.
Imagine sitting on that bus, the things you’d hear and see and share, snippets of conversation here and there, overlapping and misheard remarks, shows of power and sex and the division between the kids based on cultural types – the nerd, the artist, the rabble-rousers, the sexy girl, the quiet kid, the smart girl, the outcast, the social leaders and of course the bus driver.
Everything seems to be happening, stories are told and tempers flare. Kids pick on each other and on the passengers. They’re testing their strength and moves. We’re so close it’s like we’re in the middle of it, like being one of them. Gondry directs the action incredibly subtly, without intruding on the kids, making it feel like a documentary rather than a narrative drama.
Nothing happens and everything happens from the time the kids get out of school and on the bus to the end of the road when darkness has fallen and the bus is empty. They’ve all gone back to the realities of their lives that they talked about. The kid who makes up elaborate lies about what a player he is, the musician whose guitar the bullies broke, the sexy girl defending her brother, so many storylines interwoven, and so expertly and seamlessly. A repeating image is from a phone – a young man who falls on the floor that’s been buttered by the guy shooting it. Remember it.
Gondry shoots short sequences in random order, but as the film and the day progresses, the episodes get a little longer and plot like. Genuine things are starting to emerge. Some kids are getting the truth dished out, and dealing with it. It’s an ordinary day, and then all of a sudden, it isn’t.
The We and the I is breathtaking at times, and it’s remarkable how much we care for these kids and how quickly. Like the bus driver who dotes on them and worries about them. Its innocent, experienced and life and death and it’s never dull. Brilliant film director and young actors.
As for Gondry’s interesting choices, The We and The I is a good one.