by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & The Science of Sleep & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & t & eacute;phane Miroux (Gael Garc & iacute;a Bernal) is a dreamer who dreams of disasters. A struggling painter, he's snookered into moving to France from Mexico by his mother, who promises a prestigious design job. But the job is anything but prestigious. It involves taking stock of inspirational business calendars and adding his clients' names to them.
Insecure but undaunted, he pitches his boss "Disasterology," a cycle of paintings he's done depicting disasters and human tragedies, as the company's next calendar. It's laughed out of the room. Frustrations like this -- professional, interpersonal, sexual -- push an already daydreamy St & eacute;phane further into a realm of half-sleep fantasy that often intrudes upon his dealings in the real world.
But St & eacute;phane's dreams are vibrant and bizarre. Cardboard cutouts form sets populated by plush stop-motion creatures and wildly id-driven co-workers. During his private sleepy time, St & eacute;phane is dashing and forceful, quite the opposite of his outward self.
In The Science of Sleep, director Michel Gondry seeks to explore the link among dreams, waking and imagination, suggesting that the latter is a majestic bridge between worlds. And the world he's created to document this is indeed majestic. Gondry lavishes time on his imaginary world here, crafting brain states and processes into scenes and set pieces made out of household items (the detritus of daily life), even taking the time to stop-motion animate some imaginary creations. His vision begs for in-depth, explanatory special features -- extras that unfortunately do not appear on this disc.
Yet the more St & eacute;phane lives in his dreams, the more he feels the waking world should conform to its limitlessness. This creates huge problems with his neighbor St & eacute;phanie, with whom he shares a halting attraction and a deep love of the imagination. (Gondry seems to think that since St & eacute;phanie can imagine things right along with St & eacute;phane, they must share a deep connection.)
St & eacute;phane, though, dreams too deeply, imagining an intimacy that St & eacute;phanie does not share with him. They might have shared some of it if only St & eacute;phane could shun the allure of dreamland and turn instead toward concrete reality. (Rated R)