The director returns with a successful comedy although a little self-indulgent, where Niney plays his alter ego.
Hey, a ghost. Eight years since Michael Gondry had no longer made films, preferring to go into exile in the United States to (re)do advertising and music videos. And if we believe The Book of Solutions, it was the small form. The sixty-year-old makes his comeback with a film which examines his own creative process through his alter ego, Marc (Pierre Niney), whimsical director who has taken refuge in the Cévennes: disappointed by his last film which is still unfinished, his production tries to regain control of the project to limit costs, causing Marc to flee. He walled himself up in his aunt’s house (Françoise Lebrun) nestled in the countryside, accompanied by his editor (Blanche Gardin), his assistant (Frankie Wallach) and handyman Carlos (Mourad Boudaoud).
Gondry creates a really funny film, a sort of self-portrait of a bipolar filmmaker – if it’s never clearly stated, it’s obvious -, plunged into the chaos of his incessant ideas after stopping his treatment. Marc generally makes everyone sweat, wakes up his colleagues at 2 a.m. because he had an epiphany, yells at them with impossible violence as soon as they don’t comply with his whims… Before leaving begrudgingly apologize ten minutes later. Gondry does not spare himself and portrays his character as a capricious kid prone to whining, incapable of confronting the real world (he puts in place all possible stratagems to avoid finishing his film, to the point of refusing to watch the first edit). In this succession of ups and downs, Pierre Niney holds the note superbly between sudden outbursts of anger and real moments of comedy.
Praise of improvisation and tinkering
Unfortunately, The Book of Solutions collapses somewhat halfway through, when Gondry imposes a love story without head or tail and begins to justify all the mistakes of his character by his genius (everyone passes the towel on his behavior because Marc would have in him a poetic madness so powerful that it would surpass its disrespect). This portrayal of himself between a cursed artist and a eccentric prodigy ends up vampirizing the film, even if it allows certain crazy scenes to emerge: at one point, Marc takes it into his head to compose the soundtrack for his feature film himself. film, even though he has no musical training.
But as his artistic scope clearly knows no limits, he rents a symphony orchestra, orders the conductor to leave the room and begins to hum a melody, which the musicians are asked to reproduce. Marc guides them with his whole body (“If I spread my arms, it means stronger. If I lean forward, it means more serious“), until finding the perfect melody in a completely empirical way, in the moment. It takes an ego like that to write such a scene, but let’s admit that this praise of improvisation and tinkering is absolutely unstoppable.
The Book of Solutions. By Michel Gondry. With Pierre Niney, Blanche Gardin, Françoise Lebrun… Duration: 1h42. Released September 13, 2023