July 5th: Digital Killed the Video Star

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140. Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry, 2008)

The films of Michel Gondry have a homespun feeling, the effects seem much more tactile than the barrage of CGI that we are treated to by most modern American cinema. This story of a video store clerk forced to recreate scenes from various films after his friend accidentally wipes their content is a perfect vehicle for this aesthetic. The film is based in the New Jersey community of Passaic, an economically depressed area on the evidence of the DVD extras. Gondry has successfully captured the sense of community by his inclusion of locals. The baseline story is the classic small community set-up. Mr Fletcher (Danny Glover) owns a VHS rental store which charges minimum prices for its films. It is being threatened by a takeover and being turned into apartments, Mos Def and Jack Black attempt to make the money to stave off the takeover by making ‘Swede’ versions of the videos after they are wiped. It’s pretty straightforward stuff plotwise, nothing spectacular, but what it becomes is an ode to the physicality of VHS. In an age where digital media has completely altered our method of consumption there is something comforting about the visible workings of a video tape.

To bundle together the sense of community, this love letter to a dying medium and present it with warmth and humour is a success. I grew up with video and as a child of the 80s and 90s there is something about Be Kind Rewind that appeals in a nostalgic sense. This isn’t brilliant in the way that Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is but, for me, this film succeeds in its remit. It’s a celebration, a slightly quiet and understated celebration of a time that has passed. There are moments of silliness but they too are warm and well intentioned, overall there isn’t anything unpalatable about this.

3 thoughts on “July 5th: Digital Killed the Video Star”

  1. I felt like Science Of Sleep pushed Gondry’s tragic savant thing as far as I could go with it: I was delighted and shaken by it, but even a massive Gael Garcia Bernal crush couldn’t give me the joyful kick I got out of Be Kind, Rewind.

    1. There was a simple joy and tactile loveliness about Be Kind Rewind that made me feel genuine warmth towards it.

      Not seen Science of Sleep. Worth a watch?

  2. It is, definitely – it picks up a lot of the emotional themes of Eternal Sunshine, but it’s pegged to the main character’s POV in a way which makes it more fantastical and more tragic too. And the little crafty bits are delightful.

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