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Michel Gondry’s “I’ve Been 12 Forever”

Author John Cech
Air Date 6/3/2004

Michel Gondry’s “I’ve Been 12 Forever” Transcript

Brief sound clip

That’s one of the most inventive people working in video and film today, the French director, Michel Gondry, talking about something that his father pointed out to him when he was twelve years old, about the importance of inspiration, and how new ideas emerged from a fusion of unlikely elements.

While Gondry is explaining this memory, the film jump cuts between his recreation of the key experience with his father, that took place at a shopping mall when he was twelve, Gondry paddling a canoe on a lake in the present, and two colored wooden blocks, with grooves on their top surfaces, being joined together by a thin, round stick.

This incident is part of a fascinating autobiographical work, I’ve Been Twelve Forever, that appears on a DVD collection of Gondry’s music videos, for such performers as The Rolling Stones, Bjork, The White Stripes, and Foo Fighters.

These are videos that elevate this pop form, if not to high art, at least to high experimental art. Gondry’s videos are often funny, usually dream-like, always engrossing visual narratives, full of his personal obsessions, and almost invariably related to the kinds of things that have concerned him since he was twelve. In I’ve Been Twelve Forever, we move from a jerky video of a street in Versailles, where Gondry grew up, to a street map that traces his route to and from school, back and forth, until the map becomes so worn out that the paper becomes shreds. It’s an interesting metaphor for the boredom and repetition of a child’s life, that through several more permutations of the map, Gondry transforms into art.

The DVD, The Work of Director Michel Gondry, isn’t really for children, but it’s an important documenting of the spirit of childhood, and teenagers who watch music videos will be very interested. They already know his past work, and they’re going to see his new movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And even adults who may be out of touch with many of the latest groups, will find themselves playing along with Gondry, as he spins out the story of the principles that have affected him since childhood, beginning with one of his teacher’s explanations, with a ruler and a piece of chalk, of the concept of infinity. There’s real delight and unabashed awe in Gondry’s presentation of those interlooping lines.

Posted in Film, Music