February 16, 2008 / 2:30 PM / 10 years ago

Jack Black in comical tribute to film pioneers

BERLIN (Reuters) - Actor Jack Black stars in a comical and nostalgic tribute to the pioneers of cinema and jazz in “Be Kind Rewind,” which brings the 2008 Berlin Film Festival to a fitting close on Saturday.

Actor Jack Black, star of the film "Be Kind Rewind" by director Michel Gondry, poses during a photo session at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 19, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Directed by Frenchman Michel Gondry, best known for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the movie tells the story of two friends who try to save a dying video rental business by making their own versions of films.

Black, as exuberant on screen as ever, plays Jerry, a delusional mechanic who is convinced the authorities are using radiation to contaminate and control people’s minds.

His sidekick is Mike, played by Mos Def, who works with ageing Fats Waller fan Fletcher (Danny Glover) in a rental store threatened with demolition.

When Jerry is magnetized attempting a hair-brained sabotage mission on a power station, he accidentally wipes the videos.

The pair decide the only way to save the store is to make instant versions of the erased originals, triggering a madcap race against time to remake “Ghostbusters,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Carrie,” “King Kong” and many more.

As their scheme becomes increasingly successful, the local community becomes involved and unites in a final bid to save the shop with an original biopic of Fats Waller.

“I always saw Fats Waller as some punk figure of the time,” Gondry told reporters.

“He was completely disrespectful ... but yet his music was very elaborate and joyful,” he said, speaking in English.

“There is a sense of resistance in the way the African-American community produced some of the most beautiful music of all time by creating their own form of entertainment.”

“Be Kind Rewind” recalls the “rent parties” where jazz legends like Waller and James P. Johnson would play the piano and guests would contribute money to pay the host’s rent.

It also makes a gentle dig at the film studios when a representative, played by Sigourney Weaver, rounds up the re-makes, has them steamrollered on the street outside and threatens Fletcher with life in jail and a billion-dollar fine.

The irony of using a major distributor and Hollywood stars to make the film is not lost on Gondry.

“The movies itself cost a certain amount of money, it’s having quite wide distribution, it has people that you would recognize, so there is a contradiction here,” he said.

“It was just trying to prove somehow that people can create their entertainment.

“It all comes from the sort of utopian concept I had for long years that if people gather together among friends or neighbors and did any type of shooting they would have a great time screening it the next week and watching it together.”

The movie is released later in February.

To read more about our entertainment news, visit our blog "Fan Fare" online at blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/

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