Michel Gondry, Cow Farts & the Walmart Yodelling Kid
Watching Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as a tween, I was hoodwinked by a blue-tinted vision of adulthood. It centres around the gangly, introverted Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, his “manic pixie dream girl”, thrown between hatred and nostalgia. This invisible battle was wistful, surreal, and strangely compromising. Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay spun a linguistic dreamscape of loneliness and sweet, sweet longing. Moments were never quite consummated… Yes, this is all very well… any 13-year-old in the throes of Tumblr could go on about this till the end of time.
The point is, it’s not just melancholic and malnourished teenagers that swoon over Michel Gondry. No, no, do not be so foolish. In fact, the big geezers of big brands have fallen victim to his cult following, spanning decades. I’m talking Apple, Burger King, John Lewis, Doordash. His delicate colour palettes and child-like mode of seeing have been repurposed for 2022. The Gondry Factor has been modernized, yassified, commercialised, commodified, anything-fied. Don’t get me wrong, this is no bad thing. I think he saves brands from sudden death. The ads he directs all have a certain flavour to them. Live footage is harmoniously sewn together with animation, creating varying levels of reality. Mmmmm.
His Apple iPhone 13 Pro ad ‘A Dozen Eggs’, sends eggs to a model space, where stars are puppets, and the craters of the moon are dents in its paper maché surface. It has a charming, homemade quality to it. He invents magic from nothing. The most mundane act of cracking an egg now punctures holes in the fabric of the universe. We peek into the theatre of Gondry’s mind (albeit through the lens of an iPhone).
To get even quirkier, Gondry teamed up with the 11-year-old Walmart yodelling sensation in 2020. In this Burger King ad, greenhouse gases are squeaked about in a way that could be really quite annoying. But of course, Gondry saves the day. Only Gondry could make a tasteful music video about cow farts. Only him. He turns something garish into a wholesome theatre set, with warm mise en scène that leaves the scent of artistry, not farts. Gondry invents for Burger King ‘Low Carbon Land’, a mini fairground that is almost like a dollhouse. There are moments when it could be forgivably mistaken for a short film. But then the yodelling kid comes back into frame. Thank you Gondry.