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The Gondry quandary: Is it a beauty or a beast?

In the ad world, director Michel Gondry is best known, at the moment, for his Levi's singing belly-button spot. (Last week, the bubble-bursting multi-Pulitzer winning New York Times revealed that Michel designed a new computer effect that created the singing navels. So they weren't lip-syncing!) Years ago, Michel burst onto the advertising scene by pioneering the frozen moment effect, most notably in a Smirnoff spot featuring a speeding bullet frozen in mid air. The technique was mimicked so often in music videos, movies and in advertising that Vincent Gallo was able to parody the effect in the hilarious final scene of the first and only flick he directed, "Buffalo 66." Now Michel's own long-awaited film debut is out, "Human Nature," and Adages attended the premiere and party last week in Manhattan. The stars were out, including the film's leads Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans (of "Notting Hill" fame) and Tim Robbins. Also on hand, wunderkind screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who carried his tiny daughter through the smoky rooms of Sean McPherson's labyrinthine restaurant The Park. Sophia Coppola escorted husband Spike Jonze, who produced. Spike also directed Charlie's first script "Being John Malkovich" and will helm his next: "The Adaptation," which is allegedly a film about Charlie adapting a screenplay from a book. Spike Jonze directs spots through MJZ in L.A.

The Park's second-floor VIP lounge was sizzling, with temperatures in the upper 90s, thanks to the presence of actress and Bong Water band leader Anne Magnuson. Or was it that log burning in the lounge fireplace? Commercial director John O'Hagan of Hungry Man was seen in heavy conversation with Nathalie Ross of Masterfoods marketing division while her husband Steve Dickstein, president of Partizan Films, which produced "Human Nature" in association with Good Machine, munched on deep-fried eggplant rinds. Michel directs spots through Partizan.

Michel is slight and soft-spoken, and he wandered through his party like a wallflower. No one seemed to realize that he was the film's director. (He is now collaborating with Charlie on another script.) The man who has been called a contemporary Jean Cocteau told Adages that negotiating the red carpet and the paparazzi was "surreal." After years laboring on spots and music videos, he has finally achieved his dream: making a big screen movie. And what's "Human Nature" about? Well, it appears to be a philosophical rumination on man's uncontrollable urge to mate, but it looks curiously like an episode of Captain Kangaroo. (Remember Cosmo Allegretti as the naked Dancing Bear?)

In the film, Arquette is Lila, a beautiful misfit with full body hair who thinks she looks like an ape and tries to live in the woods. Ifans is Puff, a man raised as an ape who already lives in the woods. And Tim Robbins is Nathan, a dweeb scientist who romances Lila, tames Puff and is eventually murdered in the woods.

Adages opinion? Truly brilliant direction and inspired acting, especially by Robbins and Ifans. The wunderkind's script? Probably the dumbest thing since, well, Mr. Green Jeans.

Bottoms up

The St. Pauli girl is dropping her drawers. As if Barton Beers `new "Life goes better with a girl" tagline isn't sexist enough, the distributor of the country's No. 21 import will do to their girl what David Copperfield does to his: cut her in half. By early fall, Barton will change label graphics on bottles in six- and 12-packs showing only the top half of the famous fraulein.

A Barton spokesman said the campaign will differentiate St. Pauli Girl from beers that "take themselves too seriously." And what beer might that be?

contributing: hillary chura

E-mail, not to be mistaken for Slim Goodbody.