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Thorn in the Heart

3.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A former school teacher in rural France, Suzette has always had a fraught relationship with her son, Jean-Yves. Michel, appearing as interviewer, and sometimes moderator, throughout the film, uses his cameras to explore the rich and often difficult family history in a subtle, sensitive, and humorous way. Featuring new interviews, archival Super-8 home movies, animations, and a moving score, THE THORN IN THE HEART is an exquisite feat of personal filmmaking from one of contemporary cinemaas most visionary masters.

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The Thorn in the Heart is the most highly personal film yet from a director known for making films that show quirky human connection (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Flight of the Conchords). In this documentary, Michel Gondry has taken as subject matter his stalwart aunt Suzette, who confidently describes to the camera her historic teaching career in the French countryside. Suzette Gondry's tale is intriguing, as the director follows her from town to town to revisit decrepit schoolhouses, now overgrown with vines. She reunites with ex-students, some of them Harkis, Algerian soldiers who braved their War for Independence then settled in the region where Suzette settled. (There is also an excellent extra feature, "A Brief History of the Harkis," that furthers their roles in the film.) Starting in the 1950s, Gondry chronicles, year by year through vintage Super 8 film mixed in with new interviews of his elderly aunt, what adult life was like in tiny schoolhouses, and more profoundly, what strain this rural lifestyle placed upon relationships with her sawmill-employed husband, Jean-Guy, and her son, Jean-Yves. From here, the film takes a home-movie approach. When Gondry exposes his inner familial conflicts, one feels like a spy. Jean-Yves, a righteous model-train builder whose trains demarcate regional scene splits throughout, is obviously much more private than his mother, thereby adding to the film's overall eavesdropping sensibility. That said, while the subject matter is at times awkwardly private, the film's execution employs the viewer-friendly touches we know and love from Gondry. Animations made by Valerie Pirson, also explored further in the extra feature "Stop Motion Animation by Valerie Pirson," and a cool school-kid sequence soundtracked by Charlotte Gainsbourg renegotiate the film for a wider audience. While The Thorn in the Heart is too personal to be relevant in mainstream theaters, it gracefully illustrates Gondry's love of cinematic experimentation. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Suzette Gondry, Michel Gondry
  • Directors: Michel Gondry
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Oscilloscope
  • DVD Release Date: August 10, 2010
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003O3EKSS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,242 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Thorn in the Heart" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I was able to see this movie at SXSW this year, and I'm grateful that I had that privilege.

I really enjoy being able to look into a stranger's life and just learn random tidbits that would otherwise remain unknown. Being able to see the life of Suzette Gondry was very interesting. The film seemed like a personal movie that Michel made just for him and his family, but it was neat being able to watch this film and feel as if you're being welcomed into their lives--if even just a small part.

After learning about all the ups and downs of her life and watching the impact she has had on many people, I felt as if Suzette had been a part of my life.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
I have no idea what possessed this director to make a documentary about his boring family! Only his family could maybe derive some enjoyment from his memories. It's like being invited to a party and being treated as an outsider. You won't understand any of the jokes because you're not an insider. You're not even introduced to the characters. I don't understand what the point was from beginning to end.
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Format: DVD
This is a small tender self-conscious film that has several layers that aren't obvious. On one level, this is a family documentary, and it feels uncomfortable as if the viewer is a voyeur that shouldn't be looking into the window of the house. On another level it is about a woman, Suzette, that was a teacher in eight small towns in the south of France. And on a very difficult level for American's to understand, it is about a moment in France of Algerians seeking asylum in France from a horrible war. And it also a strange insight into the mind of an Academy Award winning director.

This isn't a film that many people will love. It is very particular and nothing like Michel Gondry's other films (The Green Hornet, Be Kind Rewind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). This is a rough grainy documentary. There isn't really much of a story, this is not a dramatic film.

From a film standpoint this is strange film. It is hard to tell which clips are current and which are from the era. Gondry applies tons of effects to current footage to make it look old. Sometimes the only way to tell what is current day is by Suzette's age. And there is a big problem with the film. A documentary should be somewhat real - tell a story with transparency and honesty. These added effects create a confusion over what is real and what is made up. And then Gondry had friends do animation and special effects for the invisible cloaks - none of this really fits in the film. And yet he keeps attention going so well, the film doesn't necessarily feel like a documentary.

The opening sequence is at a crowded family table. Suzette is telling a story and everybody at the table is adding and interrupting. Well exactly like a happy big family gathering would be.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I want to be nice and give this two stars in a sympathetic sort of way, but no. It's just bad. Don't waste your time. Go buy the Directors series DVDs instead, or his new one. This is just not interesting.
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Format: Amazon Video
Enjoyed immensely :)
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