Cannes 2023: ‘The Book of Solutions’ Teaches Us All About Creativity
by Tamara Khodova
June 2, 2023
One of the most delightful experiences at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was Michel Gondry’s dramatic comedy The Book of Solutions, from the Directors Fortnight sidebar. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind stayed away from the big screen for eight long years after the painful failure of the sloppy melodrama Mood Indigo (2013) followed with his next low budget comedy Microbe & Gasoline (2015). His only project from the past few years was an incredibly witty, heartfelt TV series called “Kidding” with Jim Carrey as Mr. Pickles, a quirky riff on Mr. Rogers. Gondry’s new feature film, Le Livre des Solutions, depicts the ultimate turmoil of the moviemaking process – accumulating all of his passion, frustration & fears in a lighthearted, ironic way underlined by the usual melancholic for which he is known.
It’s hard to speculate about the exact reasons, but it seems like in the last couple of years many acclaimed filmmakers decided to tell their personal stories all at once. Recent examples include Bardo by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Fabelmans by Steven Spielberg, Empire of Light by Sam Mendes, Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid, Hand of God by Paolo Sorrentino, Gaspar Noe’s Vortex, and Mia Hansen-Løve’s One Fine Morning. Yet Gondry’s film connects mostly to the brilliant mini series Irma Vep, in which french director Olivier Assayas laments on the lack of artistic freedom and perfectly depicts the total chaos of a movie set. In Gondry’s The Book of Solutions, we are spared of production craziness and find director Marc (played by Pierre Niney) when the studio tries to ditch him and finish his film themselves, fearing that Marc’s extraordinary ideas will sink the project entirely. He retaliates, steals the only copy of his movie and runs away with the rest of the remaining film crew to his aunt’s house in the middle of nowhere in France. But instead of editing the film, Mark sabotages his own work by losing himself in a string of side projects that drive his team insane.
Gondry’s magic starts working from the opening credits serving as a time machine that takes you back to the old days of The Science of Sleep (2006) and Be Kind Rewind (2008), although the film itself is much more realistic ignoring the usual Gondry-esque animated miniatures and funky handmade gadgets. They are still present, but minimally in the form of Mark’s feverish procrastination. He randomly draws a cartoon about a Fox who opens a barber shop (which plays in the middle of the film), makes his editor Charlotte (Blanche Gardin) an “editing truck”, records a cooking show with his aunt Denise (legendary Françoise Lebrun), and creates a “Book of Solutions” in which he writes a recipe for solving any possible problem in life. Gondry invites us backstage for a look at his creative process, showing that all of his ideas come from sleepless nights, anxiety, fear and a unique way of thinking – which is a mystery even to those closest to him.
The director’s message is obvious yet powerful – only truly passionate, borderline insane people can pull off making a movie. Marc’s own “Book of Solutions” within the film serves as a filmmaker’s guide for those who are brave enough to try making their own film their own way. His main advice is to believe in yourself even when everyone else claims you’re crazy. I have to admit, I didn’t trust Marc either at first, especially when he decided to record a score without a composer or to become a mayor of the nearby village. However, Gondry makes the audience a part of his joke proving all of us wrong to a joyous result. By the end, Gondry’s film paints Marc as a troubled, lost and tired artist whose loyal crew members follow him blindly for the spark of brilliance in his art. And the audience is ready to follow suit.
Tamara’s Cannes 2023 Rating: 5 out of 5
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