Eight years have passed since the last feature by “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” director Michel Gondry. His at least semi-autobiographical new comedy-drama “The Book of Solutions” (also in the Directors’ Fortnight section) offers a slightly alarming yet endearingly whimsical pseudo-explanation for why it’s taken him so long to make another movie.
Centered on a very Gondry-esque filmmaker named Marc (Pierre Niney), who’s struggling to complete post-production on “Anyone, Everyone,” a project he believes could be his masterpiece, the film opens as a meeting with Marc’s financiers goes precipitously south. He’s still obsessively tweaking the film’s fifth act, and they are unimpressed with the footage he’s produced thus far. Unwilling to admit defeat, Marc instead absconds with the hard drives and heads to a village in the Cévennes, where his aunt Denise (the legendary Françoise Lebrun, warm and wise beyond measure) has a house.
There, Marc believes he will be able to rediscover his creative genius and re-edit the film to perfection, in league with his long-suffering editor Charlotte (Blanche Gardin), assistant Sylvia (Frankie Wallach), video specialist Gabrielle (Camille Rutherford), and increasingly exhausted film crew. Standing in the way, of course, is Marc himself. Afraid to look at the footage, the director proves himself a master of procrastination, taking up one time-consuming task after another and ensuring his collaborators share in many of his self-inflicted headaches. For all his manic-depressive flights of fantasy, Marc’s not so practically minded, at one point telling Charlotte to put the footage together in reverse, at another demanding that Sting contribute to the film’s score.
Throughout, the film’s cheerfully eccentric tone suggests a method somewhere in Marc’s madness; it’s titled after a daffy self-help guide he’s abruptly moved to write, featuring truisms such as “learn by doing” and “don’t listen to others.” Gondry’s troubled post-production process on “Mood Indigo,” a wackily surreal 2013 romance that bears similarities to Marc’s would-be magnum opus, seems a direct inspiration, and so scenes in which Marc’s frantic, borderline-abusive treatment of his fellow filmmakers reaches a fever pitch register, like the film as a whole, as both comically exaggerated and enticingly self-reflexive.