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Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.
A visionary journey into a punk-rock future where three rebellious teenagers rise up against their government and discover that ruling the world is not as easy as it seems, based on a universe created by Michel Gondry's son Paul.
What? No Gondrys on IMDb today? Well then I guess the rest of us can pack up and go home. Forgive me for being insensitive to cinematic master Michel Gondry's cherished family memories, but I'm going to have some fun slamming this film. Why? Because if nothing else, I don't want my review to bore you as much as "The Thorn in the Heart" bored me.
Seriously I could only take about 40 minutes, and even that was because my dog was lying on the remote so I couldn't shut it off.
All kidding aside, before I start I'd like to quote something said by the late, great Stanley Kubrick when asked if he used LSD to get his uniquely bizarre ideas. He answered, "No. I believe that drugs are basically of more use to the audience than to the artist ... One of the things that's turned me against LSD is that all the people I know who use it have a peculiar inability to distinguish between things that are really interesting and stimulating and things that appear so in the state of universal bliss the drug induces on a good trip." (Agel, The Making of Kubrick's 2001, 1970, excerpted from the Playboy interview, p. 346)
"The Thorn in the Heart" is about Suzette Gondry, Michel's aunt. Now I would say that Michel obviously finds that subject to be really interesting. However, I submit that his subjective and emotional involvement with his aunt severely compromised his "ability to distinguish between things that are really interesting and things that appear so in a state of universal bliss." Whether LSD was involved is a different matter.
The film opens with a scene around the dinner table of about 12. No one is introduced, we're just supposed to piece together who's who (incidentally, the whole documentary is shot this way... fine for family albums but not so easy for us outsiders to follow). The woman referred to as Suzette chimes in with a story. It goes on for a painfully long time because she keeps breaking into laughter in mid sentence, getting more and more hysterical with her unfinished story until the others at the table literally begin a different conversation, something about vomits and farts (I'm not kidding). Suzette eventually finishes the anecdote, but by this time everything has dragged on so long that nobody, least of all the audience, gets the point. Literally, a few people ask her to repeat the punchline. "He could've had what? ...Oh, sauerkraut? Oh haha," they laugh languidly. Sure, to the Gondry family it's an endearing moment. But to us, meeting someone for the first time and sitting through this, it's slightly aggravating. And believe it or not, that opening scene was the most eventful scene in the 40 minutes I sat watching, while carefully trying to roll my dog off the remote so not to disturb her sleep, which seemed far more enjoyable than my experience on the couch.
I feel like the documentary could have benefited tremendously from an objective co-director, someone who could politely tell Michel that people don't understand inside jokes of strangers. And instead of putting the film together in a dry, historical way (chronologically beginning at 1954 and progressing year by year by year), the objective editor might have suggested to begin with something sensational and dramatic, the way even famous biopics are structured so that the audience is given a reason to invest their time watching.
Is this a bad film? Certainly not. I do distinguish between 'bad' and 'boring' (often they are not synonymous). But for me, this film conjured up nightmarish memories of the times I would end up at a stranger's party, not knowing a soul, not understanding all their inside jokes, and growing more awkward and agoraphobic by the minute. I no longer go to strangers' parties, wisely. And I think I'll make it a rule that I'll no longer watch strangers' home movies. "Voyeuristic" is a word used by another reviewer, and I now understand what was meant by it. To the Gondry family, I'm genuinely happy that you have this excellent way of preserving your cherished family memories. With all due respect, I'll just put this DVD back where I found it, as if I had accidentally bumped a priceless heirloom I had no business bumping.
So if you decide to watch, be ready to accept that the Gondry family is important enough to spend 84 minutes learning about. Devoid of Michel's usual creative visuals and surrealistic storytelling, this film is a very flat documentary. If the subject doesn't immediately entice you, then you're outta luck. Unless of course you manage to drop a tab beforehand.
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