Microbe and Gasoline
by writer/director Michel Gondry
Microbe and Gasoline is about an age in life I am deeply interested in: adolescence. So many things that happen then stay with you for the rest of your life—or it may be because at that age I developed many skills I use today as a director that I feel that way—as if I didn't really have to become an adult, even though I am a father today.
Adolescence for me didn't go as planned. I didn't grow zits and a beard and I didn't drive a motorbike. I just played drums and looked like a girl. So, I mostly talked to girls—girls and only the most outcast boy of the class. Always. Amongst the group of girls I was close to, there was Emmanuelle whom I was in love with. My feelings for her grew for four years, until my big brother took her from my hopes. This day the sky went black and I felt things that I still use in my work today.
I grew up in Versailles, near Paris, and my family was different from the norm there: we were the hippies of the neighborhood. My brothers and I had long hair, my father was designing microphones and sound speakers and my mother used to take us to questionable spiritual conferences, like Microbe's mother in the film. We definitely looked like the picture family you saw in sex ed manuals in the ‘70s.
I gathered about fifteen memories from my own life, and the story appeared clearly: as a teenager, I was pretty much like Daniel, aka Microbe. I was often mistaken for a girl, maybe because most of my friends were girls but I couldn't muster the courage to ask any of them out. I made the character of Gasoline out of a couple of my friends from that period, the outcasts whom I always was more attracted to: they often came from a less favored background and had more to deal with than the rest of us, which made them that much more interesting to me.
Like Microbe, I loved to draw and couldn't wait to hit puberty. When he meets Gasoline, the new kid in school and also a genius mechanic, they decide to build a moving house and take a trip through France on their own. I worked with two very intuitive young actors, Ange Dargent and Theophile Baquet, and the ever-amazing Audrey Tautou, and I stripped down the movie machine to a minimum: one camera, one small crew, no special effects or crazy decor, except for the car itself. After my last feature Mood Indigo that was so complex to film—multiple crews with multiple cameras each and numerous special effects—I really wanted to go back to a more organic approach of filmmaking. It felt natural and truthful to draw from my personal life to do so.
Microbe and Gasoline is a movie about friendship set in the present day—I didn't want to make it a period piece: part of me just wondered if my own memories could be as universal and timeless as they felt.