Eternal Sunshine Collector's Edition
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With a film as innovative and possessing of such quality as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind it deserves a DVD presentation far beyond the typical film release. Although Universal did an excellent job of extras in the initial release they have now released a special collector’s edition chock full of new, additional material. Now many studios seem to sweep the editing room floor for some bits of discarded film, throw in a standardized making of featurette, bump up the price and call it a collector’s edition. Universal has taken a different tact here, they have shown respect for the serious film collector and provided additional material as unique as the film itself. I normally focus more and the film than the extras but here I am compelled to add to this review and detail what this splendid edition holds.

Inside the Mind of Michel Gondry

This feature of about 20 minutes in length goes into details of the methods employed by director Michel Gondry. More than a director he is a visionary and a true artist in the way he filmed the special effects shown in Eternal Sunshine. While most modern directors would fall back on computer generated graphics or extensive post production tricks to create such a visually unique film, Gondry uses his imagination Sure there are some CGI devices used in this film but as the featurette points out it was done only as a last resort. Gondry is somewhat of the synthesis between visual artist and magician. He fools the eye to obtain the effects he wanted up on the screen.

In one scene that takes place in Joel’s apartment he follows Clem into the bathroom only to have her disappear and show up in the kitchen. Instead of using cuts and splicing film together Gondry had a trap door built into the bathroom set so Winslet could duck out of that room and run to appear in the adjacent room. It is slight of hand like this that provides a more natural and gives the feeling of a person’s memories jumping around in his head.

In another scene Gondry want to have Winslet and the background go out of focus as Joel remembers a certain day. Once again instead a dioptic or post production fix he had a couple of union stage hands follow behind Carey with a huge piece of plastic that fogged the actress and street. It is these off beat approach by this director that added the little something special.

Anatomy Of A Scene: Saratoga Avenue

This 15 minute featurette details every aspect of a single scene’s production. This particular scene was a good focal point since it is one of the few scenes where practical sets where augmented by CGI. They go into how the practical and computer generated worlds where merged to create a fading memory in this character’s mind. Even the music and Foley artists have their work detailed. Little touches like doing another take with some words in the scene faded visually showing how the memory is slipping away.

This featurette shows how little details are pieced together with extraordinary care. Between the innovative practical magic from the fertile mind of Gondry and the subtle use of film magic this scene takes shape before our eyes. It shows just how many arduous hours went into a scene that was actually on the screen for only a matter of minutes.

A Conversation With Kate Winslet and Michel Gondry

In the regular edition (also provided in this collector’s edition) there was a conversation between Jim Carey and Michel Gondry. Now, with this release Kate Winslet gets her turn to chat with her director. For most of the 15 minutes running time Winslet is the voice behind all the stories. Gondry, with his thick French accent lets her take center stage but does warm up towards the end of the piece.

Winslet recalls how Gondry did not use the very common practice of little pieces of grip tape for the actors to use as their marks. Instead of predetermined spots for the actors to hit Gondry employed little wireless microphones and earpieces to direct the two camera operators in real time. As Winslet recants this afforded the actors almost unprecedented freedom to move around and improvise. While one take was done entirely on a sofa in the next they got up and moved to a window. It was this spontaneous feel that translated to the screen. Winslet openly admits that she wanted to work with Gondry because of this novel way of treating his actors, let them do what they do best and he’ll make sure the camera’s catch it.

There is an amazing chemistry and respect between these two. It shows how the work day must have gone. The seemed to have fun working with each other, the way Gondar would give some much leeway to his cast translated to a free spirited film. The sit there on a couch like two good friends and remember. One thing that was interesting was that Winslet is usual in a corset in a period piece while Carey is the wild man. In this film they reverse their typical types. Winslet plays the wild free spirit while Carey is the moodier more sedate character. Winslet thought it was great that Gondry was willing to take a chance with this off type casting.

Finally there are some more deleted scenes pretty much an extension of the type in the standard edition. They doe so the amount of improvisation permitted to the actors as they crack each other up take after take.

Combined with the extras on the regular disc you will get more about the behind the scenes that most films will ever consider. Fortunately, this is a film worth such attention and Universal has reset the bar a lot higher for the other studios.

Posted 12/29/04

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