Short Takes: The We and the I
By Chris Chang
(Michel Gondry, France/U.S., 2012)
Imagine a New York City bus packed with hyperactive Bronx teenagers. School’s out for summer and it’s time to go nuts. Most of the kids are euphoric, a few are aggressive, and all, of course, are horny as hell. Michel Gondry, working with nonprofessional actors, takes this one-location setup and—traffic conditions permitting—takes off. Using a budget that seems to have been spent, in its entirety, on securing the rights to a couple of Young MC tunes, he has fashioned a four-wheel microcosm.
During the course of the 103-minute film, all of reality (birth and death, love and hate, heaven and hell, and even a slice with pineapple and anchovies) is embraced, alluded to, and/or ingested. Since this is apparently The Longest Bus Ride Ever, distinct personalities are given the chance to emerge from the seething adolescent mass. The boy bullies in the back, the alpha girls in the middle, and the geek outliers all get to shine in idiosyncratic ways.
As is to be expected, the film has a few thespian misfires; similarly, its multidimensional scope prohibits the narrative from focusing on any single character. At least, that is, until the very last scenes, at which point only a few riders remain. But the fluidity and immediacy of Gondry’s eye (and camera), and the film’s identification with a city’s youthful life force are infectious. Embedded in his subject matter, the director, in essence, has gone native.