Michel Gondry is a French director probably best known, firstly, for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He later directed The Science of Sleep, The Green Hornet, and Be Kind Rewind, and has worked extensively as a music video and commercial director. His next film will be called Is The Tall Man Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky. We talked with Gondry on the phone last week about movies, East Williamsburg, gentrification, LCD Soundsystem, and those sketches he was drawing for fans that took him four years to complete (he's done now!).

I'll just start with the impetus for this interview: the new Training Tracks commercial for Gillette with you and Phil Mossman from LCD Soundsystem — how did that project come about? Well, the project was not completely storyboarded and designed which excited me because I could put in some input. The agency had the idea to have some NFL players using training equipment and record a song about it. With the agency we asked this Phil to collaborate. My first contribution was to suggest to shoot it in the recording studio so we would really record why we shoot and that's what we did.

Are you an LCD Soundsystem fan? Do you listen to them? I don't know them much but I really liked what I saw. My company had done a video for them a few years ago so I remembered their music.

It seems like it's been a while since you've done any music videos. The last one was for Bjork probably 3 years ago. I spent a lot of time shooting and preparing my last movie Mood Indigo and I did the documentary with Noam Chomsky so I haven't had much time for videos.

What do you think attracts you to directing music videos? This commercial, which you've also done a lot of, is a little bit of both, definitely musical.... [With a music video] you don't sell a product. You at least try to work with the music and it's an agenda that's a little more to my taste. Higher. You don't have to pretend you believe in a product. You like the music and [with this commercial] these kids created the music while we were shooting which was even more exciting. But I think there is more integrity or artistic — it feels more creative because a commercial has to deliver the message, sell a product. To do a music video I feel more that I'm expressing my creativity.

Do you follow football at all? Not much. It's funny because I really don't understand the rules. My son — who is French but lives in New York — likes it and explained to me that it is like a whirl. So people were moving forward or backward and its how i should understand the game but I think maybe I'm too old now to get into it.

Are you still living in Brooklyn in the same area on Orient Avenue? I'm half in Brooklyn and half in Paris.

It's Gothamist, so we're gonna talk gentrification a bit. There's constantly talk on how different areas are changing—do you notice the changes or anything like that? Yeah, of course, you know. I'm part of the trend. When I move in its where other people [are moving out]. The districts change very fast as you can see. Meatpacking District got changed like a few years ago and then it was Brooklyn. It's all turning. There is a cycle where first industry leaves then it gets run down and the artists come in because its cheap and it becomes fashionable because some artists are there. Then galleries come in and then you have hotels and so on. And then it becomes expensive again. It happens very fast. I just happened to [move to] Brooklyn and whether I like it or not I'm part of it. I'm gentrifying myself. Although I used the house that was the same before — I didn't move into a new apartment — I'm still part of the group who established themselves in Brooklyn.

Do you have any favorite neighborhood spots? Well, oh, yes. There is this place I really like to go to take my coffee. It's called Garden Green. It's on Graham Avenue, I think. I like to go there because it's lots of trendy people. The coffee is what it is. But you see — it's a Greek owned diner and you see all sorts of people. It's more reflective of all Brooklyn so I like to be there.

A couple of years ago you started doing sketches for people who mailed you pictures. We just wrote an article about someone who just got a sketch from you after about four years of waiting... Oh, that was you! And the guy was not even happy. Yeah, I just finished the last one today. The five or six I had. It's all finished now and at the end it was such a nightmare. I mean, I was quite brave. I did 1200 or 1300 and I had like 400 left and I had to get back to it after the movie and finish them. But I remember I read the guy was not super happy with the portrait. He didn't like the way I made his girlfriend look so I apologize, but you know I'm a filmmaker. I'm not supposed to be an artist or a graphic artist, so that's just part of the deal. It doesn't have to be perfect. It's funny that you mention that because I literally finished the last one today. It's finished now. I know it's been four years. I'm really sorry. It was not like a huge amount of money — it was $20 — though I guess I have to respect that. But yes, I'm done now.

You've directed a lot of videos for Bjork — do you stay in touch with her? Yes, yes. We always exchange email every other month. Generally we see each other several times a year. It's just been cut off because I was working very hard on my last movie. But we always keep in touch.

Any other artists that you have worked with that you speak with regularly? Ah, yes... Jack White from The White Stripes. We met in an airport totally randomly but we regularly keep in touch. Not as often as Bjork. And Beck, we have dinner sometimes. I don't know. I'm not really in the scene at all. The guys from Daft Punk, we see each other sometimes.

Have you talked about working with them? Not lately. But I bought the album. I really like it. If they asked me, I would respond, but they haven't.

Daft Punk worked a lot with Kanye West on his new album and I know you've worked with him... Yes! He played me some tracks and it was great. I actually met with Kanye recently. He's very friendly. He invited me to come to his apartment and he played me some of his new stuff which was great. He played two of the tracks he worked on with Daft Punk. He was doing an interview and he called me. It was very immediate. He asked me if I wanted to hear his new stuff and he was staying not far so we just walked together to his apartment. That's really nothing too crazy.

I had another question about your past work...You worked with Dave Chappelle on Dave's Chappelle's Block Party and he's back touring again now... I loved working with him. I think he's one of the strongest comedians around. I saw how the press was treating him on some question he specifically asked not to be mentioned and they would go right to it and it was just difficult. But I really like him. I had a very good relationship with him when we did the film and the film had grown to be really liked by a lot of people and it's really some work I'm very proud of. And it was pretty amazing what we did, basically. Reunite The Fugees, to play with The Roots as a live band in Brooklyn, police was freaked out...Dave was amazing. He's amazing with the crowd, just always reacting to the moment. I like him. I'm glad — I hope he's gonna do movies again. We could do some together.

The timeline for the film was a little after he left Comedy Central — did you watch him go through that? Did you notice a change or... It was before and after. I think some people don't understand you can refuse a big check because you want to do something else. And that was a problem. For me, that's what it was. I can't speak for him.

What about the Noam Chomsky project? Can you talk about that a little bit? It's coming out in November. It's gonna play at the Berlin Film Festival next year. I just finished it. It took me nearly four years to finish it because it was really done on a small scale. It was fully animated on my own, nearly, so it took me a long time. I've been listening again and again to the interviews and it's sort of shaped me into thinking a bit differently. It was really a strong experience.

Were the conversations organized by different topics in particular or did they just range? It was not very political. I talk about his family, his history, we talk about his wife and about grammar. That was my favorite part. He explained to me how he believes that language, 50,000-100,000 years ago, came from a single mutation. That was amazing because that's something he sort of started. And to have the person who started something speaking to you directly about his discovery and his philosophy — I said I was very lucky to witness that.

That must've had an effect on your thinking going forward... In my way of thinking I was very sensitive to his scientific approach to things. That's the way of thinking of things that are based on experience, on experimentation. The way to basically differentiate stories to the fact. All the scientific approach, even in the way he approached politics and history, there are not so many people who have this level in science and in philosophy and politics at the same time. Generally, if you're someone who's really strong in science what they would tell you in politics are not so great. He's equally on the front as a scientist or as a commentator on the politics. So it's pretty impressive to be able to talk with somebody like him.

You've had some time since you were in Hollywood and did The Green Hornet — how is that project now to you after a couple of years? It was a very intense experience. It was sort of a dream come true to direct such a big movie and have so much fun. It was not always easy. I don't regret it. I wish I had more freedom but I totally knew what I was going in to when I accepted the job. Just to think about it is unbelievable. I keep in touch with Seth. I went and saw him at the premiere [of This Is The End] and we talk regularly by email.

What's after the Noam Chomsky project? I'm still working on developing the writing for Ubik, the Phillip K. Dick story, but other than that nothing definitive I can talk about.