Monday, October 31, 2011

Case Study No. 0035: Unnamed Female Librarian (Be Kind Rewind)

Be Kind Rewind - Random Library Captue Scene
Be Kind Rewind - Random Library Capture Scene
Tags: be kind rewind mos def jack black ghostbusters funny parody
Added: 3 years ago
From: blaise365
Views: 15,178

[Jerry and Mike, covered in tinfoil and carrying vacuum cleaner parts to simulate Ghostbuster "uniforms", are walking around the stacks or their local library and filming]
JERRY: [whispering] We've got one right there ... Let's get a closer look.
[they jump out from behind the stacks and confront an elderly female librarian reshelving books]
JERRY: [loudly to the librarian] Hey, have you ... talked to Elvis lately?
LIBRARIAN: [puts her finger to her lips] Shhh ...
[the shuffle back behind one of the shelves]
JERRY: [whispering into the camera] We're moving onto stage two. We can capture her, we have the megapixels. You just have to stay with me, okay?
MIKE: Okay.
JERRY: Okay ...
[they jump out from behind the stacks again and start making whistling noises as they point their "proton packs" at the librarian]
LIBRARIAN: Excuse me?
[confused, she walks away]
JERRY: [feigning excitement] Yeah, we got her!



In its sweet, lackadaisical way, Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind" illuminates the pleasures and paradoxes of movie love. Its two main characters, a pair of Passaic, N.J., loafers named Mike and Jerry, are devotees of the Hollywood mainstream, paying tribute to well-worn classics like "Ghostbusters," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Rush Hour 2" and "The Lion King." The way they express this affection lands Mike and Jerry in a spot of copyright trouble, but they (and Mr. Gondry) provide a welcome reminder that even the slickest blockbuster is also a piece of handicraft, an artifact of somebody's nutty, unbounded ingenuity and the potential object of somebody else's innocent, childlike fascination.

Mike (Mos Def) works in a shabby video store whose owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), has not yet made the leap to DVD. His business threatened by the dubious improvements of a city-backed redevelopment scheme, Mr. Fletcher sneaks away on a mysterious trip, leaving the blundering, well-intentioned Mike in charge of his stock of battered VHS cassettes. Jerry (Jack Black), an avant-garde auto mechanic and tireless tinkerer, suffers an accident that magnetizes his body, causing him to accidentally erase all the tapes.

So when a loyal customer named Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) shows up for her daily rental, Mike and Jerry must improvise. They do what anyone would: hurriedly reshoot famous movies using a camcorder, various local characters and some common household objects.

Of course, not everyone would or could figure out how to turn pizza pies and cardboard boxes into special effects. Mr. Gondry is a highly skilled and practiced professional, a visual magician responsible for such enchantments as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (in collaboration with Charlie Kaufman), "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" (with Dave Chappelle) and "The Science of Sleep" (all by himself). But as tricky and refined as his techniques may be, the spirit in which he deploys them is delightedly amateurish and winningly democratic. In the world of his films drab city neighborhoods are zones of oddity and wonder, their possibilities waiting to be unlocked by accident or whim. Daily life is a series of art projects waiting to happen.

"Be Kind Rewind" is pervaded by an easy, occasionally antic good humor. Like "The Science of Sleep," it meanders occasionally toward melancholy or misunderstanding, but for the most part avoids conflict or intense feeling. In their speech patterns and styles of behavior, Mos Def and Mr. Black seem like a couple of overgrown 12-year-olds, and Alma (Melonie Diaz), the young woman who joins their cinematic enterprise, seems less like a potential love interest than a girl given permission to enter the secret clubhouse.

In any case, Mr. Gondry's shaggy-dog neighborhood chronicle is really a loose frame for Mike and Jerry's creations, and for the exquisite black-and-white Fats Waller biopic that turns out to be their masterpiece. Miss Falewicz, who has never seen "Ghostbusters," is glad to be fooled by the clumsy, highly foreshortened version that Mike and Jerry send her home with. But their way of remaking movies — called "Sweding" for no very compelling reason — catches on even with customers who know better, and before long lines are forming around the block.

And why not? At the "Be Kind Rewind" Web site (, Mr. Black's voice defines Sweding as "putting YOU into the thing you like," and there is a quiet strain of populist defiance buried in Mr. Gondry's wonder cabinet. Commercial pop culture is, too often, understood as a top-down enterprise, its expensive, disposable products passively consumed by the public.

And yet at the same time that stuff is capable of inspiring a deep and durable sense of ownership. The movies we love belong in some profound way to us, and part of us lives inside them. Sweding is Mr. Gondry's way of making that rather abstract sense of connection literal, of suggesting that even if we are not strictly speaking the owners and authors of the movies we like, well, then, perhaps we should be.

It goes without saying that this is a naïve, utopian point of view. The travestied films in "Be Kind Rewind" are the intellectual property of large corporations (as is Mr. Gondry's movie), and you can be sure that teams of lawyers were consulted and paid before the Sweding went very far. But "Be Kind" hardly pretends otherwise. Instead it treats movies as found objects, as material to be messed around with, explored and reimagined. It connects the do-it-yourself aesthetic of YouTube and other digital diversions with the older, predigital impulse to put on a show in the backyard or play your favorite band's hits with your buddies in the garage.

And the deep charm of Mr. Gondry's film is that it allows the audience to experience it with the same kind of casual fondness. It is propelled by neither the psychology of its characters nor the machinery of its plot, but rather by a leisurely desire to pass the time, to see what happens next, to find out what would happen if you tried to re-enact "Ghostbusters" in your neighbor's kitchen. It's inviting, undemanding and altogether wonderful. You'll want to see it again, or at least Swede it yourself.




Gondry, Michael (Director). Be Kind Rewind. United States: New Line Cinema, 2008.

Starring: Jack Black (Jerry Gerber); Mike (Mos Def)

The humor in this quirky small-budget, star-stuffed, award-nominated film comes from each viewer's familiarity with the popular movies that a group of urban survivors recreate in order to save their neighborhood video store. Jerry Gerber, almost too convincingly played by Jack Black, accidentally de-magnetizes the videos offered at his friend's workplace, and in a flash of moronic genius they refilm the highlights of the missing movies and rent them out instead. Of course popularity breeds panic as people line up to order the fractured versions of numerous classics. This is only one plot (the silly one that drives the action) in a film with deeper rivers running through it. Suspend your disbelief and rent this one. You'll see lots of Hollywood icons in minor roles. As to the library scene – what reenactment of Ghostbusters would be complete without the library sequence that establishes the film's tone? Gerber and buddy Mike (Mos Def) set up filming in a (real) library, dressed in foil suits hastily adorned with junk and duct tape, and Jack Black wears a flowery dress pulled over his foil suit to play the matronly librarian who gets chased through the stacks in the opening. A book swings from fishing line, and computer cards are flung into the air, and it's obvious these guys have great enthusiasm but Steven Spielberg they ain't. They prowl through the stacks, drawing notice from patrons who openly stare. A woman shelving books shushes them, but as she wears no ID and makes no move to interfere with their antics even when they "attack" her with "ectoplasm" (red and green garlands on twisted wire), I'm assuming she's a volunteer or maybe even a helpful patron. The children's reading room is used to recreate the hotel scene where Mike gets slimed. A fun and touching film.

No comments:

Post a Comment