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The Thorn in the Heart (L'épine dans le coeur)

The Thorn in the Heart (L'épine dans le coeur)

Directed by:  Michel Gondry Cast: Suzette Gondry, Jean-Yves Gondry, Michel Gondry Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: Unrated Release Date: May 28, 2010

PLOT: Gondry makes a very personal film about his Aunt Suzette and cousin, Jean-Yves.  Though ostensibly about her years as a teacher in small schools in the French countryside, the relationship between mother and son steals the focus of the film.

WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of Michel Gondry who would like to know more about him and where he gets his unique world view.

EXPECTATIONS: I love Gondry's films and music videos, he has such a unique style, but I wasn't sure how that would transfer to a documentary.



Suzette Gondry as herself:  Michel's aunt is a lovely woman who seems very personable and fun.  She doesn't seem like the focus of a documentary though.  And despite her clear affinity for Michel, she doesn't really open herself to the camera the way I would like a documentary subject to do.  She doesn't seem to hold herself aloof on purpose, maybe there were things that were filmed that didn't make the final cut.  But I never really understood her whole relationship with her son, I got some, and I got that it was tangled with resentment and lost opportunity, but never really understood it completely. Score: 6

Jean-Yves Gondry as himself: If I had problems understanding where Suzette stood, I had even more problems understanding her son. He claims to resent his mother, but also clearly needs her.  He's a 51-year-old gay man living at home who still holds resentment  over the circumstances of his father's death.  Though he talks to Michel, I never really understood him, why he lives at home, why he blames his mother.  I didn't even get if he had ever had a boyfriend.  For the subject of a documentary, I didn't understand much about him. Score: 5

Michel Gondry as himself: He's always present, whether in front of the camera or behind.  As a filmmaker he's also willing to allow his crew on camera, something many documentarians try to pretend isn't even an issue.  I did enjoy how charming he found his aunt to be, their rapport is fun to watch. Score: 6

TALKING: Is all French.  Unfortunately, I get the idea that everyone has a country accent but alas I'm not qualified to know.  Too bad. Score: 5

SIGHTS: Gondry weaves in a combination of new video and old super 8 film.  The look is pretty good, but what can you say?  He's a master of visuals.  He also has these great little train shots that he uses between scenes.  They actually make sense within the context of the film too. Score: 7

SOUNDS: As a guy who's worked with some of the best indie rock bands around, I expected a more star-studded soundtrack.  The songs are nice, but don't make a huge impact. Score:  6


BEST SCENE: Suzette and Jean-Yves re-enact Jean-Yves getting stuck in the bathroom with narration from and direction by Michel and it's as fun and whimsical as anything in his movies.

ENDING:  There isn't any real sense of resolution.  I learned a bit about Suzette and Jean-Yves but they never come to any conclusion.  I guess it's like life that way, but it's still not satisfying.

QUESTIONS: Why does Jean-Yves still live at home?  Why can't he get along with his mother?  Why did Michel Gondry choose to make a film about his aunt?

REWATCHABILITY: You'd have to really love Michel Gondry to want to see this again.


Thorn in the Heart is not a bad film, but I doubt it would have seen even this limited release if it wasn't for Michel Gondry being so famous.  There isn't much story, whether between Suzette and her students or her son.  What is interesting are the pieces of Gondry's life that apply to his art.  In rare moments, it's clear that Gondry get's a lot of his sense of whimsy from his family.  Whether it's Jean-Yves with his model trains and Super-8 films or Suzette with her unique sense of humor, it's clear he's been influenced by them.  I can't say that I love the movie, or could recommend it too highly, but if you're like me and have everything Gondry's done, including this "Director's Series" DVD, the film is still worthwhile for what is says about the auteur.


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