• Film

Michel Gondry – A Unique Mind Turns 60

Michel Gondry can solve a Rubik’s cube with his toes, despises superheroes and adores the quirky Icelandic singer Björk. As famous for his music videos and commercials as he is for his feature films, it is hard to believe that the unique French director, once hailed as a boy wonder turns 60 today.

Music dominated Michel Gondry’s life from childhood. He grew up in upscale Versailles with parents who loved pop music and played it around the house constantly. That Michel would become an artist was inevitable. As a boy he wanted to be a painter or an inventor. In the 1980s he enrolled in an art school in Paris and formed a pop-rock band called Oui-Oui. The band played venues all over France and released two albums – “Chacun tout le monde” and “Formidable” – before they broke up in 1992. Gondry was the drummer but knew even then that his true passion was behind the stage and behind the camera: he also directed their video clips, creating his own unique world which was so heavily influenced by his childhood and the 1960s. When MTV aired one of his videos, he got noticed by Björk, who asked him to make her first solo video for “Human Behaviour”. Their partnership led to five other videos. Gondry became the most famous video director of the 1990s, working with Massive Attack, Foo Fighters, Sheryl Crowe, Paul McCartney, Sinead O’Connor, The Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz among others.

In 2001, Hollywood became interested in Michel Gondry, whose first feature, Human Nature caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was written by Charlie Kaufman. Even though it was not exactly a commercial success, three years later the collaboration led to the film that would turn him into one of the most sought-after directors of the early 2000s. As one of the most popular independent films ever made, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind became a classic for which Gondry won the Oscar for best screenplay, an award he shared with his co-writers.


At the same time, he became the highest paid and most awarded commercial director with spots for Gap, Smirnoff, Air France, Nike, Coca Cola, Adidas, Polaroid and Levi’s. And in 2006 he directed the very first Nespresso commercial, starting a major success story for the brand and its star, George Clooney. The tag line “What else…?” was created by Gondry.

He also became infamous for not mincing words, once calling superheroes “fascist” and ridiculing “the nerds at ComiCon” for parading around in costumes. But even he once succumbed to the trappings of Hollywood: his last big film was The Green Hornet in 2011. In the past decade he has directed several episodes of Jim Carrey’s TV-series Kidding and has made a lot of short films, preferring the freedom these allow him over the constrictions of high-budget Hollywood productions.