While Be Kind Rewind wasn’t the best movie I’ve seen recently — heck its not even the best Gondry film in my opinion — it did strike a cord that’s resonated with me ever since. I keep coming up with new ways of thinking about the film weeks after my first and only viewing. What’s captivated my attention is the films interweaving of two strong core-principles that are very dear to me. The community and its relation to a DIY aesthetic and copyright law in relation remixing.
If you’ve seen my blog in the past you might have noticed that copyright law is of particular interest to me. Most notably I’m a huge fan of Larry Lessig and his book Free Culture. In it Lessig argues that all works of art are inherently indebted to the works that come before them. The mixing and re-mixing of works has been an important staple of our creative ecosphere. Disney for example built his empire on cartoons based upon existing works for which he paid no royalties.
Graffiti and (for lack of a better word) urban culture has been a proponent of mixing and remixing since its early beginnings. What Be Kind Rewind gets right is the sense of joy and accomplishment achieved when making art for oneself irrelevant of the originator of that content. The original is not used with disrespect — actually quite the opposite — it is because of its importance to the remixer. The great thing about BKR is that not only does it get this right, but it also makes a terrific argument for how a down-trodden community (or any community) can be built around this sense of remixing and investment in DIY.
Now BKR isn’t the best Gondry film on record. He’s got a wonderfully imaginative and creative mind and certainly his previous work such as Human Nature, The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are evidence of that. In contrast Be Kind Rewind has a far more traditionally structured narrative. I don’t fault the film for this, however, first off because its nice to see Gondry attempt such a structured piece — I had worried at times that all of his films would be trippy dreams and he would become a one trick pony. Secondly I do see those whimsical Gondry moments in BKR when — and this is important — the community in the film makes the films for themselves.
In a way though BKR is the least Gondry-like Gondry film, it’s the most instructive. Watching films like Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine I am caught up in the world and entranced by the visuals. I love these films but I also am presented with works that are distinctly Gondry’s and his alone. What BKR teaches me as an audience member is that hell I could do that! What’s important is the process of the making and taking pride in constructing works regardless of the legal ramifications. Now… if I could only get Jack Black and Mos Def for a weekend.. I have this great idea for a sweded version of The Royal Tenenbaums.