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Michel Goldry’s Talent and Approach to Cinematography


Michel Gondry is a contemporary filmmaker from France, famous for his works Science of Sleep, Mood Indigo, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The spectacular cinema approach was inspired by the pioneers of this genre, Georges Méliès, and Busby Berkeley. Gold has received several awards as an appraisal for his innovative visual manipulation. Unlike most modern-day filmmakers, Gondry avoids using computer-generated visual effects and instead uses crude visual techniques to achieve the desired visual representations, which is the remarkable characteristic of his style.

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The three feature films that will be examined in this paper to illustrate Goldry’s talent and approach to cinematography are Science of Sleep, Mood Indigo, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Saint Charles, n.d.). The influences of Méliès and Berkeley are evident in the in-camera elements of the movies. According to Ezra (2000), Méliès is a man of theatre with a camera, which means that the approach that this filmmaker took towards cinematography is based on the use of crude effects as opposed to the computer visualization techniques that are popular today. Méliès’ spectacular technique can be compared to tricks that this director performed both on camera and in the editing room. Similarly, in the Science of Sleep, Goldry uses crude effects as opposed to CGI.

As Goldsmith (2004) explains, this is because Goldry views CGI as something artificial, especially if the blue screen is used during the filming. As Dellamorte (2007) mentions from the interview with Goldry, the latter states that he wants “to use CGI, but only in ways that you can’t do with the camera” (Dellamorte, 2007, para. 10). With CGI, the actor is then disconnected from the scene and cannot deliver the performance that they would if real-life effects were used. Hence, the Science of Sleep aligns with the general approach that Goldry used in creating his movies, which is consistent with the techniques used by Méliès: lack of CGS and computer-generated effects and the focus on crude visual effects.

Notably, Goldry denies being inspired by filmmakers such as Méliès and insists on using his own techniques and creativity to create his movies; however, some may argue that in the Science of Sleep, the influence of Méliès’s work is evident. Moreover, according to Goss (2016), as a filmmaker in the 1880s, Méliès is the first director ever to use visual effects in movies; hence denying his influence on contemporary works of visual art is not appropriate. Some of the most famous techniques that he used were “multiple exposure, dissolve, matte shot, replication effect, transparency and model shots,” which are used by Goldry as well (Goss, 2016, para. 1).

In the film Mood Indigo, one can spot the many similarities between the techniques used by Goldry and those that Méliès introduced to the cinematography. For example, the objects in this movie respond to the movements and actions of the characters, resembling a jazz ensemble (“Task 2.3: Comparing tricks and effects by Michel Gondry and George Méliès,” 2016). This approach to moving objects is very similar to the one that Méliès applied. Moreover, one of the employees on this project stated that Goldry “asked me to pick up old techniques from Georges Méliès and the Fleischer brothers and adapt them to digital tools” (“Task 2.3: Comparing tricks and effects by Michel Gondry and George Méliès,” 2016, para. 1). Hence, Goldry’s “controlled chaos” of the moving and dancing objects on screen is his modern-day interpretation of the cinematographic technique that Melier invented.

When analyzing the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fordham (2016) argues that Goldry is “the rock and roll maestro of the avante-garde” since he was responsible for the reaction and realization of the movie’s special effects, while traditionally, this task is assigned to the visual effects director. The plot of this movie shows the viewer a part reality, a part dream created as a result of the main character’s attempt to erase his memories about his breakup and relationship. In this movie, unlike the previous ones, Goldry resorts to the use of CGI to create a surreal atmosphere consistent with the works of Berkley. For example, in one of the shots, the main character Clementine walks down the street, and because this is a memory that is being erased, one of her legs disappears mid-shot (Fordham, 2016). This effect was created using CGI, together with the car that crashed into a fence in the background, which is also present in this scene. Both instances of CGI use are justified and align with Goldry’s approach since it would be impossible to create the effect of a disappearing leg with crude methods. Moreover, the car crash is meant to be unnoticed by the characters of the film, and due to this use, the CGI helps the actors be in line with the atmosphere of the movie.

Berkeley was a filmmaker whose style is characterized by the use of geometric forms, showgirls, props, fantasy elements, and kaleidoscope. Berkeley’s work is disconnected from reality, which in part is influenced by the era in which this filmmaker worked, which is the Great Depression (Rubin, 1993). According to Broady (2016), Berkley is “a cinematic philosopher whose symbolic inventions bear and develop ideas and intimations that Hollywood movies, facing public mores and self-censorship, would have had trouble unfolding dramatically” (para. 2). This philosophic approach is comparable to that used by Goldry in the creation of the special effects for the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as each element fits into a broader idea of a man’s attempt to erase his memories of the past love.

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Moreover, this film’s use of special effects is also inspired by Méliès, since in an interview for Dessa (2019), Goldry describes it as “nifty, lo-fi special effects and lived-in romanticism” (para. 1). The influences discussed above are in both the staging of the scenes and in-camera effects. The first element relates to the way Goldry approaches his work with actors, avoiding the use of computer-generated effects where it may affect the actor’s performance, similarly to Méliès’ theatrical approach to filming (Ezra, 2000). Hence, this movie shows a remarkable combination of the special effects inspired by two renounced filmmakers, Berkley and Miller, as well as Goldry’s unique style and approach to filmmaking.


In summary, Michel Gondry argues that his films are not a product of other filmmakers’ influence and that he aims to create visual effects and stories of his own. In his movies, he avoids the excessive use of CGI effects and prefers the approach of crude effects, consistent with the theatrical cinematography of Méliès. One example of this is the moving objects in Mood Indigo. Moreover, the philosophy of staging the scene that Goldry uses is similar to that of Berkeley, where the use of effects has to be consistent and justifiable by the main idea of the scene.


Brody, R. (2016). Busby Berkeley’s personalized beauty. NewYorker. Web.

Ezra, E. (2000). Georges Méliès. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Fordham, J. (2016). Cinefex vault #6: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Cinefex Blog. Web.

Dellamorte, A. (2007). Exclusive interview – Michel Gondry. Web.

Desta, C. (2019). Mind games and broken hearts: Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry on making Eternal Sunshine. VanityFair. Web.

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Goldsmith, L. (2004). The work of director Michel Gondry. Web.

Gross, C. (2016). Comparing tricks & effects by Michel Gondry and George Méliès. Web.

Rubin, M. (1993). Showstoppers: Busby Berkeley and the tradition of the spectacle. Columbia University Press.

Saint Charles, M. (n.d.). Hollywood’s best film directors: Michael Gondry. Web.

Task 2.3: Comparing tricks and effects by Michel Gondry and George Méliès. (2016). Web.

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