Magazine article The American Conservative

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Magazine article The American Conservative

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Be Kind Rewind

A NEW SATIRICAL WEBSITE called "Stuff White People Like," which offers dead-on deadpan analyses of status symbols among the under-40 white middle class, has earned 3 million visits in the last ten days. Listed along with such de rigueur affectations of the more-sensitive-than-thou set as "Apple Products," "Threatening to Move to Canada," and "Barack Obama," is "Michel Gondry," the French director of Bjork's music videos and "such white classics as 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.'"

Christian Lander, who masterminds the site, helpfully advises:

   [Mentioning Gondry] can be used
   to help find common ground with
   white people. Talk about how you
   wanted to direct music videos after
   you saw Michel Gondry's video for
   'Around the World' by Daft Punk.
   Then make a joke about how foolish
   you were at that age and everyone
   will have a good laugh. But
   they will also feel your pain about
   sacrificing your artistic dreams.

Like much of the stuff white people like, there is something to be said for the ingenious and ingenuous Gondry, whose video autobiography is aptly entitled "I've Been 12 Forever." His twee trademarks are childlike sets and props that he might have made out of cardboard and other junk he found in his dad's garage. Indeed, I found Gondry's surrealist comedy "The Science of Sleep," with Gael Garcia Bernal as a boyish graphics designer who can't tell his waking and dreaming lives apart, the most delightful movie of 2006.

Yet while Apple can charge $800 extra for a laptop, movie tickets all cost about the same, so having a small upscale fan base doesn't do much financially for Gondry. To escape the status-striver's ghetto and connect with the American mass market, Gondry is recycling the do-it-yourself aesthetic of "Science" in "Be Kind Rewind." It stars part-time heavy metal singer Jack Black and part-time rapper Mos Def. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, American lunkheadedness and French condescension make an ineffectual combination.

While Mos Def is #68 on the "Stuff White People Like" site, Jack Black's reputation is in decline. Here he plays the same character he did in "School of Rock" and all his other films, the pop culture-obsessed loser. But the suspicion is growing that perhaps Black isn't a genius who understands the common mind--maybe he just has the common mind. …

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