No way out: Michel Gondry's favourite inescapable films

The auteur director of Eternal Sunshine recalls when he walked into a video store and stayed for two hours watching a Luis Buñuel film

je-taime-je-taime
Film still from "Je T'aime, Je T'aime" Courtesy of thefilmdesk.com

Do you remember the last film you watched that completely bowled you over, stuck in your mind, and wouldn't leave you alone? For French auteur director Michel Gondry – the man who brought you Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind, Rewind, and The Science of Sleep – there's a back catalogue he just can't shake. "I think you can become sensually overwhelmed in a museum," Gondry begins, "but it's also a feeling that you can have when you meet somebody and everything seems to be interesting and magical and colourful. It's always different, maybe it's the location, like in some hotel where everything feels sparkling with lots of detail and seems like it is moving, or maybe nature when you go to a mountain and everything is full of life…" Many films induce that feeling. Here, Gondry counts down the films he simply (to coin a Kylie phrase) can't get out of his head.

MY LITTLE LOVES (1974) - JEAN EUSTACHE

"It's about a 14 year old boy who is forced to live with his auntie as his mother is not rich enough, he goes to a town but he's struggling to find a girlfriend. The movie is so pure, sincere and touching. I watched it on VHS and wanted to stop it because it's very slow-paced and a bit dry, but something stopped me and it got to be like an old buddy. I watched it again and again and it became may be my first favourite movie."

DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (1951) – ROBERT BRESSON

"Then I would go to some Bresson movie, something like Diary of a Country Priest. It's sort of dry in the imagery but rich in the emotional dedication of the character."

MODERN TIMES (1936) - CHARLIE CHAPLIN

"Then probably a movie by Chaplin, like Modern Times, especially when the character works in the factory and gets sucked into the machine. It really summarises how I see the world of mechanics and magic at the same time."

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) – HAROLD RAMIS

"Groundhog Day is a brute comedy with the simple concept of waking up every day to the same day which is impossible in real life but you can totally identify with. Many times you wake up and it feels like the same day again and again – like shooting a film for instance, but everybody feels it's like Groundhog Day."

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (2013) – HIROKAZU KOREEDA

"This movie I saw very recently, a Japanese movie about two kids that are switched at birth but try to correct the situation. It's complicated as one kids' fate may be better than the other with his new family, but on one hand the other may have more of an experience. Eventually the kids fit better in the family where they each grew up."

L'ATALANTE (1934) – JEAN VIGO

"L'Atalante is a movie by Jean Vigo, which was made with very little money in the late '20s. It's completely magical. It's a simple love story on a boat travelling in the Channel, it's sort of surrealist by with a very simple meaning. The main character Michel Simon is just magical. It's one of the most magical movies I've seen."

JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME (1968) – ALAIN RESNAIS

"Je T'aime, Je T'aime is sort of science fiction/experimental where the guy goes back and relives one hour of his past and the experiment goes wrong so he keeps going back to the same moment in time which he can't get out of. You find out what really happened, it's surreal."

THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974) – LUIS BUÑUEL

"Each scene has an element of the next, so you follow an unexpected thread. Every time I watch this movie, I can't stop watching it to the end. One time I was in the video store and they were projecting it and I stood there for two hours just watching it. I couldn't stop."

KES (1969) – KEN LOACH

"Kes is about a young boy living in a very poor, hard part of England and has no future. Already they go to the education centre at school and they start to discuss the welfare state as they are unlikely to have a job. This kid seems uninterested by everything he studies but then one day the teacher asks them to write about something they like in life. He has this bird he found, a kestrel, which he starts to train. Suddenly this shy boy is beaming and tells a story which is completely above everyone else's stories. Everyone is completely stunned as he's been asked to talk about something which is his only interest in life. His teacher starts to visit him and it shows how important it is to give people the opportunity to talk about something they love, or you may miss them completely or never get to know them. It's a beautiful story. I love Ken Loach so much, his type of cinema doesn't really exist in France, most movies in France are mostly about the bourgeoise."

More Arts+Culture