Be Kind, Rewind: Audience ownership of films

Last year, I created a film blog for a uni assignment. The subject was ‘movies that are about movies’ and I’m quite happy with (some of) what I wrote. Over the next week or so, I’m going to repost those articles on this site while I plan (and write) some new  pieces 🙂

One of the articles from the other blog, “The Grand Budapest Hotel and cinematic storytelling”, has already appeared here.

be-kind-rewindOnce a movie has been made, promoted and released, it no longer belongs to the filmmaker  or the studio. Of course, the filmmakers are blamed if the film is unsuccessful but, if the film is successful  (or becomes a cultural phenomenon –Star Wars, Jaws, and the recent Marvel films)  the audience tends to subconsciously claim these stories.

This sense of ownership is a central part of the film Be Kind, Rewind (Michel Gondry,2008). Mike (Mos Def), Jerry (Jack Black) and Alma (Melanie Diaz) remake hundreds of films in order to save their local video rental shop (whose stock of videos has been deleted by the magnetised Jerry) from closure and demolition. The community rallies to support the store  and  jump at the chance  to appear in the DIY movies. Corrigan and White describe this cultural attachment to film as “… The intersection of [these] personal and public experiences…”  An exchange between Mike and Jerry encapsulates this intersection;

Jerry: When you’re walkin’ down the street…

Jerry: [singing] … and you see a little ghost…

Jerry: [singing] … whatcha gonna do about –

Jerry: Ghostbusters?

Mike: What? What is that?

Jerry: That’s the Ghostbusters theme song.

Mike: No.

Jerry: I’m pretty sure it is.

In this instance, it does not matter what the original/r eal Ghostbusters tune and song are. Jerry has made them his own, by mis-remembering them and changing them accordingly. This kind of misappropriation can become a form of ‘psychological truth’ and can become widespread. For example, the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” was never used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he wrote Sherlock Holmes. However, it has become an identifiable, perhaps even a central, element to the public conception of the character. Be Kind, Rewind capitalises on this mentality by having the central characters and their wider community remake cultural touchstones according to these perceptions.

Accordingly, the films Mise en scene reflects this DIY aesthetic and mentality. In an Interview with The Guardian, director Michel Gondry revealed that this view of collaboration and art meant he was “branded… a communist because of his dreams of a society toiling together. That youthful idealism found its voice in Be Kind Rewind…” The improvised, slapdash nature of these Sweded films is inconsequential to the participants’ enjoyment of them. These films are their films.


Works Cited

Corrigan,Timothy and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction.3rd ed. Bedford/St. Martins.2012.Print.

Be Kind, Rewind. Dir. Michel Gondry. New Line Cinema, 2008.

Gibley, Ryan. “How Michel Gondry became cinema’s most versatile director.” The Guardian. Thursday, 9 October 2010.



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