While Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind struck its spectators with anxieties about loss of memory and the speed in which the pleasures of the present constantly erode, Be Kind Rewind ...well...basically does the same thing. Both are films about romance, and Be Kind Rewind is even more on point about the romance and love of cinephilia; along with more populist types of movie love. Film lovers know that such love , like romantic love, can lead to obsession, but more specifically the love of film can lead to compulsive behaviour and to fetishism. Perhaps that is why Gondry chose to specify that all 3 of the main movie loving characters in Be Kind Rewind (Glover, Black, Mos Def) are all unattached romantically.
Glover's character expresses angst over Def's character's responsibilities in the Be Kind Rewind video shop: he has anxiety over maintaining the image and maintaining a structure in which it can be shared and repeatedly experienced. His shop is in a state of constant danger and threat-- the threat of going out of business, the threat of competition and the threat of his employees' neglect.
Some critics (Hoberman, A O Scott) aptly commented upon inherent issues of ownership in the world of movies. After all, these films become part of popular culture and live on in our minds, so aren't we rightful in our ownership and our decision to remake them; be it in improper memories or the phsycialisation of this in Rewind's "sweded" products? I see Gondry's film as pre-occupied with temporal anxieties and the compulsive behavior we enact in order to deal with this angst. This is about VIDEO, the first mainstream way for people to fetishize films. They became objects we could covet, rent, own, rewatch, break apart, PAUSE, rewind and fast foward to our compulsive content. Celluloid does not last forever. Cinephiles covet restorations as much as seeing archival prints that may not survive the next time they are due on the repertory circuit. Video, too, has already proven itself to have recently become an artifact.
As Laura Mulvey writes in Death 24 x a Second, "The representation of time has taken on new signifcance". In her chapter "The Possessive Spectator" she elaborates: "With electronic or digital viewing, the nature of cinematic repetition compulsion changes. As the film is delayed and thus fragmented from linear narrative into favourite moments or scenes, the spectator is able to hold on to, to possess, the previously elusive image." Movies on video become less narrative tales than iconic moments, easily identifiable punchlines and gestures allow new levels of abstraction to prevail. Narrative causality is lessened and film has the potential not just to inspire "a deep and durable sense of ownership" as A O Scott notes, but to become part of a ritualised obsession.
The crisis in the image extends beyond the ephemerality of the easily destroyed videotape. Unfortunately, the novelty and perfect Crystal Image (of the Deleuzian sort) behind Be Kind Rewind’s conceit seems to wear off before it ever expands. All that remained, for me, was a bizarrely unfunny and nearly unwatchably affected pluralistic romp.
Yeah, sure. Ok. Love of film should be utopian. I’m all for that. It’s a little hard to swallow in a film that ends up so off course from an amazing concept. And it’s an especially bitter pill, coming from the director of Eternal Sunshine, a funny and smart romance of obsession and fetishism. A film that equates the insane compulsive re-creation of doomed love with the loving , ever so slightly “sweded” recreation of Alain Resnais’ awesome Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime.