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Closed Off Circle Volume 2: Michel Gondry & Mood Indigo

Corey Wagner

My first exposure to director Michel Gondry was his 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , for which he won an Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay, as one of the co-writers). The acting and Gondry’s unique visual style help sell the movie’s unconventional take on the romantic-comedy. After that he wrote and directed the equally surreal The Science of Sleep in 2006, another movie I am very fond of. At this point, however, the quality of his output would dip more than a little.

First there was Be Kind Rewind in 2008, an inoffensive (but not particularly interesting) comedy starring Jack Black and Mos Def. The initial premise seemed interesting but it wasn’t enough to support a feature-length film. By the midpoint the film runs out steam. Gondry’s style was still there but significantly toned down; the surreal had been mostly replaced with goofiness. Unfortunately, Gondry’s next feature was not inoffensive.

Green Hornet is an entirely forgettable Seth Rogen Action(?)/Comedy movie. This was the first time Gondry really had a big budget to work with. Even with a budget greater than the rest of his feature films combined, Gondry couldn’t deliver anything remotely interesting. Even if Be Kind Rewind was lacking, it has a few memorable moments. The Green Hornet is uninteresting (and completely forgettable) in nearly every way.

Between The Green Hornet and Mood Indigo Gondry directed a low-budget film titled The We and the I. I didn’t actually know anything about this movie until recently, and since I haven’t seen it, I can’t really say much about it.

Mood Indigo is not only one of my favorite movies from the last couple of years, but it is also one of the films that inspired the creation of this blog. In the United States it was released in July of 2014, more than a year after it was released internationally. For whatever reason the American cut of the movie is a full 31 minutes shorter than the “International” version. The DVD release thankfully has both the 125 minute and 94 minute versions of the movie. I have only seen the full version of the movie. At some point in the future I might watch the shorter version out of morbid curiosity, similar to how I would love to see the 139 minute cut of Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, just to see how badly it has been butchered.

(Side note: I’m only familiar with the 229 minute and 251 minute versions of Once Upon a Time in America. As it is one of my favorite movies, I long for the day the 269 minute version gets some sort of release.)

I find it curious that a company that prides itself on presenting unconventional films from around the world would remove nearly 25% of a film’s running time. Furthermore, I would think that foreign language films are a niche market in the United States and the people that seek them out would be more than casual film viewers. Cutting the movie doesn’t seem to make sense to me. It seems that would alienate those that would be enthusiastic about the movie and I’m not sure decreasing the run time would attract those that wouldn’t already have an interest in the movie.

Anyway, Mood Indigo stars French actors Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou and is based on the 1947 Boris Vian novel L’Écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream). This is actually the third film adaptation of the novel. The previous versions are 1968’s Spray of the Days (also French) and a 2001 Japanese movie titled Chloe. Keen viewers may recognize actor Omar Sy. He is probably best known for The Intouchables or as one of the background mutants (Bishop) in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He’s the one with dreads, red eyes, and a large future-gun.

Much like my other favorite Gondry films (Eternal Sunshine… and The Science of Sleep), Mood Indigo is a romantic comedy (of sorts), with many fantastical elements. Colin (Romain Duris) is wealthy and seemingly happy with his life until the day his best friend Chick comes over and tells him that he has met a special woman. Colin decides that without a significant other his life is incomplete. Soon thereafter Colin meets Chloe (Audrey Tautou) and they quickly fall in love and wed. During their honeymoon, however, Chloe falls ill. From this point on the film is less bright and cheerful (literally). The color palette dampens gradually during the film, and by the end it is essentially in black and white.

The opening 10 minutes of the film are probably enough to determine if this is something you can tolerate. The absurdities last throughout, but the opening scenes heavily feature stop-motion animation and other surreal visuals. While I found this enjoyable (and it reminded me heavily of The Science of Sleep) I know others found it tiresome, irritating, overwhelming, too quirky, etc. Whatever may have been held back on The Green Hornet is on display here (and then some). The bare-bones description of the plot is pretty standard but Gondry is able to turn it in to something that is uniquely his own (even if it is an adaptation). I would favorably compare Mood Indigo to The Science of Sleep (obviously) and Synecdoche, New York.

Since the previous blog I have had the pleasure of viewing Life Itself, a Steve James documentary about Roger Ebert. I grew up watching Ebert on television and later began reading his reviews and commentary. As an adult, I think that he helped me appreciate film more, and I think he had interesting things to say about movies, even when I didn’t agree with him. Many times over the last couple of years after seeing a particularly good (or bad) movie, I wondered what Ebert would have written about it. Anyone with a passing interest in Roger Ebert should check out the Life Itself documentary.

One movie I would love to read Ebert’s take on: Ex Machina. I was able to catch it in theaters, and it’s easily the best movie of 2015 (as of the end of April). I’ve also had the pleasure of listening to John Carpenter’s debut album Lost Themes. While I’m not exactly a fan of his movies, Lost Themes is likely to be one of my favorite albums of 2015.

Up Next: I try to keep the word count under 1,000!

All of the following are available for checkout at the Daviess County Public Library:

Be Kind Rewind DVD
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DVD
The Green Hornet DVD
The Intouchables DVD
Life Itself DVD
Lost Themes CD
Mood Indigo DVD
Once Upon a Time in America (229 minute version) DVD
The Science of Sleep DVD
Synecdoche, New York DVD
X-Men: Days of Future Past DVD

So You Wanna Be a Librarian?

John Beemer

“Why would you want to be a librarian? Sitting around reading all day—that sounds like the most boring job. Aren’t libraries dying, anyway? And don’t you want a career that pays better?”

I’m sure most library workers have heard these questions dozens of times. I know I have. About midway through a master’s in library science, I’ve almost gotten used to the quizzical looks and smirks that accompany questions like, “What on Earth do the words ‘library’ and ‘science’ have to do with each other? What exactly do you do?—learn about the best books and how to shelve them?” My usual response: “I guess that’s part of it.” Sometimes I’ll give in and wax poetic about metadata, the different types of libraries, and our goal of bridging the gap between patron and information. Usually, this just gets me more strange looks and sometimes an unconvincing, “Oh—okay.”

Not that I blame their confusion. Learning the lingo of the library world can be daunting. Everything occurring behind the scenes at even a small library can seem incomprehensible. The science of running a library as we know it is a relatively new discipline—an evolving, thriving field sure to become more important in our information-saturated world. Working in a public library has given me a chance to examine some of the things I’ve been learning—to test myself—to see how people look for information, day to day, and how I can help them.

Starting as a new staff member of DCPL beginning in September, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was intimidated by a new workplace with new faces and new patrons. I knew it would take time to familiarize myself with all of the unknown. At first, I felt totally inept—like I couldn’t help anyone. (Halfway to my MLS and I mis-alphabetized a set of magazines. Way to go, John.) But I’m gradually falling into the groove of things, and I look forward to going to work. It doesn’t hurt when I’ve yet to encounter an unfriendly face or unhelping hand among my coworkers.

Coming from a small academic library, the most obvious difference I’ve encountered is the number of people I come into contact with daily. Although foot traffic ebbs and flows, once our doors open, patrons of every demographic and background come to us for their various needs. Some people want books or movies or CD’s. Some visit for a special program or for genealogy research. And some just want a comfortable place to sit and spend time. Nothing’s wrong with any of those. And here’s a difference between academic and public libraries I’ve noticed: an academic librarian usually deals only with the students, faculty, and staff of his or her institution; a public librarian should expect to interact with everyone and anyone and, in fact, has a responsibility to serve every person who comes through the door. That’s one of the most attractive and powerful sentiments about the public library’s role—that everyone is worthy of equal service and information access, regardless of status, education, or income (of course, actually following this aspiration is sometimes easier said than done).

Serving the entire public in the reference department comes with its own challenges. I never know what question I’ll be asked or which subject I’ll need to dive into. Library science is truly multidisciplinary—librarians have to be able to interact with the entirety of humanity’s information. In a given day, I’ve been asked for information about pumpkin carving, diabetes, car repair, and crockpot recipes. I don’t have to be an expert on it, but I need to know where and how to find it. This not only keeps me on my toes, but it’s also the main reason I want to be a librarian: I enjoy helping people. I’m not working at a library to make money or sit around reading. I work there to help you find what you need—what you’re looking for. And I think all of my coworkers would say the same.

Staff Selfies: Kristen Potter and Lisa Maiden

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Hello there! My name is Kristen Potter and I am a Library Technical Assistant at the DCPL! My areas of “expertise” include YA programming and storytime (Wee Read) with 0-2 year olds (variety is the spice of life, right?). On any given day, you can find me on the second floor helping patrons find material, at my desk planning programs, or perusing the children’s section for books to get little ones excited about reading. I LOVE working here – and I mean that! I get to express my creativity, act goofy, and occasionally I get to dress up in costumes and become a character from some of my most beloved children’s books.

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Hi there!  My name is Lisa Maiden and I work at the Reference Desk on the first floor.  I spend my days helping patrons use our computers, look up books, and find information.  I also am responsible for the majority of the displays on the first floor.  As much as I would love to make every display about cats, I realize not everyone has that special cat in their life like my Bella.  So instead, I try to make the displays center on topics that will interest you, our amazing library patrons! Some of our past displays include money smart books, gardening books, books about traveling to national parks, and how to redecorate your house.  And these change monthly so there’s always something new to sort through.  So come on in and say hello.  I’d be happy to tell you more about my cat or help you in any way I can!

My Freegal Five

One of my favorite television shows is the British comedy series The IT Crowd.  A friend of mine introduced me to it a few years back, and I was immediately hooked.    It follows an IT department team in a large company, and the wacky situations in which they become entangled.  Perhaps the highlight of the show for me was the CEO character played by actor Matt Berry.  He was arrogant, clueless and absolutely hysterical.  This set me on a path of trying to locate other shows featuring Berry.  Since then I’ve discovered the joys of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh, and Snuff Box.  Unlike the more straightforward IT Crowd, these are all surreal and unconventional.  As such, they take a little time getting used to, but once you catch the drift they’re addictive.

In watching these and looking into Berry’s filmography, I also came across the factoid that he performs music.  He does some light (and hilarious) musical numbers in Darkplace and Snuff Box, so I was pretty excited to check out his musical stylings.  I wasted no time in flying through the two albums he had released at that point, Opium and Witchazel, which were described as “progressive/psychedelic folk.”  To be honest, that genre is not one in which I typically travel, but it was Matt Berry so I gave it a chance.  Long story short I was pleasantly surprised by some catchy tunes and amusing lyrics (my favorite being “Accident at a Harvest Festival” on Witchazel).

I’m happy to report that both of these albums are on Freegal if you’re curious and want to check them out!  This is the Freegal 5 though, and I’m here to expound on my downloads for this week.

First up, it turns out that Berry has released another album called Kill the Wolf, which takes British horror movies as its inspiration.  In particular it appears to recall the 70’s classic The Wicker Man.  As we speak, Freegal is offering a two fantastic singles from the album!  These are “Medicine” and “Gather Up,” and both carry on the vibe from the previous albums.  “Medicine” is my favorite of the two.  It’s an upbeat tune which one could easily imagine being intended as the album’s breakout hit single.  The slow and ethereal “Gather Up” clearly reveals The Wicker Man influence, as it talks about gathering items for the harvest.  The track would definitely fit on a Wicker Man soundtrack album.

In addition to these two gems, I also picked up a few other Berry singles that I hadn’t run across before.  “An Electronic Hero” and “Ukenwhistle” are both instrumental pieces featured on the Medicine single release.  I enjoyed both, as they reminded me of the excellent soundtrack music from Snuff Box.  Speaking of which, my 5th and final download is an alternate take of the “Theme From Snuff Box” featuring soul singer and Evansville, Indiana native Geno Washington.  I love the “Theme From Snuff Box,” which is endlessly riffed on throughout the show.  Once it gets stuck in your head it will never leave!  Washington does a great job with his rendition, adding yet another version for fans to enjoy.  Oddly, the cover of the Snuff Box single release hypes the fact that the song is featured in the movie Dredd.  I guess the folks who made Dredd must be big Matt Berry fans – go figure!

Jim Blanton, Library Director

 

My Freegal Five Playlist

by Kara Schroader

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1. “Perfect World”
2. “After the Disco”
3. “Holding on for Life”
4. “Leave it Alone”
5. “The Changing Lights”

At first, I thought about selecting a variety of music for my Freegal Five collection. Instead, I decided to go with songs I’ve been listening to repeatedly over the past few weeks—all five of which come from the same album, Broken Bells’ After the Disco. Broken Bells is composed of Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) and James Mercer, the lead vocalist and guitarist for The Shins. Having been a fan of their 2010 self-titled album, I looked forward to the release of After the Disco this past February. Be sure to log onto Freegalmusic.com and download songs from this album as well as their debut, Broken Bells.

 
 
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