The Eyeball #34: The Thorn in My Heart


What’s going on with Michel Gondry’s career these days? Well, this, for starters…

Whether this film will become a new Iron Man franchise I neither know nor care. The trailer makes it look like any other bullshit comic book movie, and I have no plans to see it. Now compare that trailer to this one:

I watched The Thorn in My Heart late at night when I wasn’t patient enough to really watch a movie. There were numerous points when I considered turning it off, but I couldn’t stop watching what is essentially a home movie made by one of our more inventive craftsmen of cinema. The documentary looks at the life of Gondry’s aunt Suzette, who spent her career as a schoolteacher in rural France. We listen to Suzette crack up to the point of tears telling a story about her late husband, meet her son, a gay train enthusiast, and soon we’re plunged into old family wounds and resentments. I think it’s hard to watch this documentary and not start making associations about one’s own family. There’s honesty here where there could have been exhibitionism, joy where there could have been mawkishness, and just enough Gondrian quirk in the form of animated sequences and dippy tech music to glue it all together.

So on one hand Michel Gondry is making bigass movies with recognizable stars, expensive effects, and snarky dialogue, and on the other he has ventured further inward to the origins of his creativity, his family. If he continues to pursue the former to finance the latter, I say good for him. The thing I’ve always loved about this director is his resourcefulness, his willingness to find lo-fi solutions to what could easily be achieved digitally. Case in point being his video for the Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be.” (I’d embed it, but YouTube disabled embedding for it. So you’ll have to search for it yourself.)

Ryan Boudinot is the author of the short story collection The Littlest Hitler (2006) and the novel Misconception. He was a DVD Editor at from 2003 to 2007. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Seattle and teaches creative writing at Goddard College's Port Townsend MFA program. More from this author →