Film came to Hamburg: April 3, 2008
Mr. Fletcher’s (Danny Glover) video store, called Be Kind Rewind, is in a poor neighborhood in Passaic, New Jersey. Musician Fats Waller was born 1904 in the run-down building, which is condemned to be torn down. Mr. Fletcher travels, supposedly, to a Waller celebration, but actually to investigate the competition in order to improve his own sales. (He decides that all film shops should have a VHS section of oldies.) Mike (Mos Def) supervises the shop in his absence. He has strict instructions not to let Jerry (Jack Black) into the shop. Jerry lives in a nearby trailer, repairs cars, and is generally irresponsible. He does enter the shop and causes all videos to be erased with very little effort. Mike and Jerry rise to the challenge of blank tapes when Mrs. Falewicz (Mia Farrow) demands Ghostbusters. They film their own 20-minute version of that classic with themselves in all the roles. This is the beginning of new careers as film makers, actors, and producers. They churn out every genre from Rush Hour 2 to Lion King, Men in Black to When We Were Kings. Customers line up for these “Sweded” films and think they have got something special. Business booms until Ms. Lawson (Sigourney Weaver) appears with a complaint.French director Michel Gondry has a name for creating unusual films, such as his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. This comedy spoofs the film industry, piracy, entrepreneurs, high prices, videos vs. DVD, sequels, serials, and blockbusters. At the same time there is an obvious love for film making and a sense of nostalgia throughout. It was the perfect final film at the 2008 Berlinale where the film greats were gathered for the award ceremony. Parallel to the gags are wonderful renditions of Fats Waller on the road in his transport of choice: a Pullman train car (he died in one, 1943, in the Kansas City train station). In the press conference Gondry said “if people meet and shoot films together, they will have a good time and create their own system and be independent.” Where else would you hear a rap version of “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?” That’s definitely worth the price of a ticket.