Friday, 25 March 2016

Human Nature: This Film Exists I Guess

Well, this movie kinda sucks. I don't often start reviews like this, even for movies which aren't that well made or have flaws, but it's true. This isn't a good movie. While people might not like certain Kaufman films due to their levels of pretension or overly convoluted meta-textual layers, this is actually just a bad film.

Its basic premise is inane and just seems like a bunch of poor ideas thrown together. A woman who suffers from a hormone defect which causes hair to grow wildly over all her body falls in love with a psychologist who doesn't know about the hair thing. They find a man who was raised to believe he was an ape and capture him so the psychologist can civilise him.

Instinct versus civility, barbarism versus science, nature versus man, contrived metaphor versus cliched moral.

Man-ape, scientist in coat, naked lady with her naughty bits covered by leaves. That says it all really.

While watching the film, I was struck by how it bears all the superficial hallmarks of a Kaufman script with the quirky touches, hints of surrealism, and unusual narrative device but how now of them hit their mark. There's just no cohesion. Tropes which would be mind-bending or emotive his other films, feel inane and annoying here.

For example, Rhys Ifan's ape man wasn't raised by apes and therefore thinks he's an ape. He was raised by his father as an ape. Because his father believed he was an ape and so wanted to raise his child like an ape. For a while his father tried to live like a normal human but rejected humanity due to President Kennedy's assassination because apes don't assassinate their presidents...

That's convoluted in a classic Kaufman way but President Kennedy's assassination is the tipping point? That seems so utterly forced and unnecessary. It also trivialises a tragedy by linking it to a man who believes himself to be an ape rejecting civilisation based on the premise that apes don't assassinate presidents.

To clarify, he self-identifies as a pygmy chimp.

In his other films, the convoluted nature and quirky touches are interesting and seem to have a point. They don't come off as forced or having little direction like they appear to in this movie. Maybe it's because they don't hit the emotional beats they should.

The quirkiness and convoluted surreal elements in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Synecdoche, New York had an emotional weight to them which is just completely absent from this film. And so it just comes across as cloying.

In Human Nature's defense, there was one quirky element which did pay off and worked rather well. Most of the film is told as flashback by the main characters, including Tim Robbins' dead Nathan Bronfman (the psychologist) addressing an unseen audience in some sort of limbo.

"Well, I would feel happy but I don't know what happy is anymore. Because I'm dead." - Bronfman, probably

These scenes are the cleverest things in the film. He's just in this white room where everything is white and he is dressed in white. He opens the door on the left of the room and it opens the door on the right like in Portal. He remembers being alive but can't remember what emotions feel like anymore since he's dead. All he can do is retell his life story. A perfectly quirky yet horrifying purgatory.

However one nice touch doesn't save a move, especially one where there just seems to be a complete lack of substance to the story. It's a day after I watched the film and I'm struggling to remember what happened in it. Maybe it's because the story isn't that compelling. It just seems so contrived like it's trying to make a point while at the same time undermining that same point so you don't really care.

This (ape)man is testifying before Congress to let mankind know the errors of its ways or something?

But I think the movie's greatest sin is that it is boring. I was bored watching it. It never once hooked me in. With his other films, I felt intrigued and wanted to watch them. With this one I could barely focus and often stopped the film to do other things.

Nothing in it comes together in a natural way and his movie with puppets was more human.

Musing Rating: 1 Musing

The type of film which makes you think "what the fuck am I watching?" before realising the question should be "why the fuck am I watching this?" and which you don't think about after it finishes aside from asking yourself, "why the fuck did I watch that?".



References:

Human Nature Wikipedia page

Friday, 18 March 2016

Adaptation: A Meta-Textual Comedy About Trying to Adapt

The review starts oddly with reviewer Caleb Sherriff, 26 and wondering what he's doing, narrating in the third person as he watches the film. He's not sure if this is a good idea since it's likely most people won't even get what he's trying to do. It's so forced - writing the review in the style of the film's narration by Nicolas Cage's neurotic Charlie Kaufman? That's surely a hamfisted, inept attempt at parody. Hamfisted and inept mean similar things. Off to a great start.

Caleb is undecided if he should review the film as a live blog reaction like his last review which was fun or save that for the next review in the series. He is also still questioning whether he should keep narrating in the third person since it must be annoying to the reader and he doesn't want to alienate the little readership he has.

What if this is just a pointless exorcise and I'm just wasting my time writing words no one wants to read?

He decides to give some background here so those reading this will know what the film he is supposed to be reviewing is about. Adaptation was Charlie Kaufman's first script following the success of his breakout debut film Being John Malkovich and ostentatiously is supposed to be an adaptation of the non-fiction novel The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Caleb writes 'ostentatiously' since Kaufman was struggling to adapt the novel into a screenplay and was facing severe writer's block due to his failure and the pressure he felt to live up to the success following Being John Malkovich.

Therefore, Kaufman decided to write the screenplay about his difficulties adapting The Orchid Thief into a screenplay and wrote himself into the script. Of course being Charlie Kaufman, this isn't as simple as that would make it sound. He also created a twin brother for himself, Donald Kaufman, who shares screenwriting credit on Adaptation, invented a made up romance between Orlean and the novel's subject, John Laroche, and fabricated completely fictional events involving Orlean, Laroche, and the Kaufman twins set three years after the novel's release.

This makes sense for Charlie Kaufman's writing process.

The film opens with Nicolas Cage's Kaufman narration as the credit appear on a black screen setting the tone of the movie right away, self-deprecating, neurotic, incredibly meta-textual and self-aware. Caleb had to turn the volume up at the beginning since he missed the first sentence or so. He's still milling over whether he should keep doing this review in the third person but sometimes he feels he just has to commit even when it probably isn't a good idea. He's stubborn like that sometimes.

It then does this thing where they go to a scene three years earlier showing Meryl Streep's Orlean writing the book and then goes to 2 years earlier than that to show Chris Cooper's Laroche stealing an orchid from a reserve. Caleb isn't sure if that is is a flashback within a flashback or a dramatisation of the events of the novel within the dramatisation of the writing of the novel or if Laroche's scene is just a dramatisation of the event which sets up Orlean to research the article which eventually turn into the novel.

Caleb brings this up, not because it's the first scene in the film chronologically, he skipped two previous scenes, but because it shows the dense layering that is going on in this film. While there were aspects of this in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, it did seem a bit toned down whereas this film is full on layering.

"Hey, remember how I don't exist but still share screenwriting credit? Layers, right?" - Donald Kaufman, probably

Caleb notes that additional of Charlie Kaufman's twin brother Donald is a nice touch since his bouncy optimism and carefree nature is a perfect counterpoint to Charlie's (the character, not the person) eternal pessimism, self-deprecation, and depression. Also, it allows Nicolas Cage to embody two completely different roles within the same film and have those roles balance the other out.

While he finds it slightly disappointing that there is no real Nic Cage freakout in the film, Caleb thinks Cage's performance it fantastic. As Caleb already commented in his post on why Nicolas Cage would have been the best Superman ever,
[Cage] wants to you experience a visceral reaction to what he's doing, where the lines of reality are blurred such that even his most measured performances have a surreal quality to them. You can't tell what elements are part of the performance and what are real.
Which makes him an actor who is perfectly suited for a Charlie Kaufman film. Kaufman's movies always have surreal touches and meta-textual layering which obscure what could be considered real. This is a film where Cage plays Charlie Kaufman himself and his fictional twin brother Donald after all.

Oh, Meryl Streep's feet star in this too.

Ironically for a film about writer's block and the difficulty of adapting someone else's work, Caleb is struggling to write this review consistently but has to do it in short bursts and still doesn't know what his final comments on the film will be.

He also noticed that Cage's Kaufman narration is in the first person but he's being doing this review in the third person. Kaufman only starts referring to himself in the third person when he writes himself into his script way later in the film. As parody goes, this review is pretty much dead on arrival, Caleb observes with quiet resignation.

He has been repeatedly stopping the film to write which has completely disrupted his viewing experience so he has decide to let the film play and then write about it after.

I can do this.

Okay, one more pause so Caleb can make an observation before he forgets and it bugs him he didn't write it down. Kaufman's protagonists are often unlikable, anxiety-riddled white men who are hesitant or unable to make a connection with anyone else since they are so obsessed with their own problems and overthink all their actions leading to inaction. And Kaufman writes the fictionalised version of himself Charlie as possibly the most unlikable of his protagonists.

It is definitely an unflattering depiction. I mean, Charlie sees everyone woman as a potential lover and we constantly see him masturbating to sexual fantasies. Whether this is meant as an exaggeration of how he views himself or his own anxieties, it is an interesting choice. Luckily Cage pulls it off while still being charismatic due to his innate Cage-ness.

But the film is also brutal in its depiction of other characters as well. Each character is given moments to display some admirable qualities while also displaying some real disgusting, yet all too human, traits.

"Yes, I'm a morally ambiguous rogue who steals endangered flowers to make a drug but I can be real poetic in my passion."

"Wow them in the end," Brian Cox's script guru Robbie McKee tell Charlie.
Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them.
So it isn't that surprising the last act of the film is rather different in tone and execution that rest of the movie. For one thing, the movie is no longer alternating dramatisations of the events of The Orchid Thief set three years earlier or scenes of Charlie trying to adapt the screenplay, it's about things happening in the now as the Kaufman brothers interact with Orlean and Laroche.

For another thing, Charlie stops continually narrating. Also, he starts to include Donald and takes action to meet, then investigate Orlean. The whole movie to this point had been about Charlie's depressed loneliness and inaction, his inability to grow, to change, and here he is including his brother and taking action.

"In hindsight, maybe inaction would have been safer," - Charlie, probably.

The last act is almost a detective adventure as Charlie and Donald follow Orlean to Miami where she meets Laroche to partake in illegal orchid drugs and extramarital sex. But Charlie being Charlie is caught and they take him to the swamp to kill him. However Donald helps him escape but is shot by Laroche before dying in a car crash.

In a nice twist, Charlie is saved by a deus ex machina as an alligator kills Laroche before he is able to shoot Charlie. In some ways, it's like the last act both takes on McKee's advice and ignores it in equal measure.

The film ends with Charlie in his car narrating how he knows how to end the film, with narration as he sits in his car. Because the film couldn't be more meta or self-aware if it tried. And it tried.


Musing Rating - 5 Musings

Enough meta-textual layers to have you question where fiction ends and reality begins. But then you remember that Charlie Kaufman doesn't have a twin brother and that reality is a myth.



References:

Adaptation Wikipedia page

Friday, 11 March 2016

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: We'll Do it Live

I have never seen Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. In fact, I didn't even know it was a Charlie Kaufman screenplay until I started research for this series of articles. The only thing I knew about the film was that I recognised the poster and that George Clooney was in it. Well, not only was Clooney in it, he also directed it. Furthermore it was his directorial debut.

Because of my complete and utter lack of knowledge of this film, I decided to do something a bit different for this review. For the first half, I'm gonna look at the backstory of the film's production. Although this is part of my series of Kaufman Musings, the focus will be on George Clooney as a director since there was some dispute between Kaufman and Clooney over the film's script and the final product.

For the second half, I'm going to do a live blog reaction-review of the film. By this I mean, instead of watching the film, thinking about it, then writing my review as I usually do, I'm going to write my review as I watch the film. So my reactions will be in the moment and without any time for reflection or analysis.

"This is going to end well!"
I actually have no idea what the context is for this image. Haven't watched the film yet.

First Half: Confessions of a Dangerous Development

Well, one of the first things that comes up when researching this film is its troubled birth. The script languished in development hell as various directors and actors, ranging from Curtis Hanson, Sean Penn, David Fincher, Mike Myers, Ben Stiller, Johnny Depp, to Bryan Singer, were attached to the film at various stages but left the project.

Eventually George Clooney, who wanted to star as a CIA agent in the film for years, took over directing duties stating,
"I directed it because it had fallen apart so many times that it wasn't getting made. We were in pre-production, we were about eight weeks from shooting, and they pulled the plug from us financially. We had about $4.5 million against it, which meant it wasn't going to get made, because now it was going to be a $40 million film. So I thought if I came on board as a director, for scale, and was able to bring everybody else on inexpensively, if I could get the film back down to 30, including eating that $4.5 million, then I was going to be able to get the film made. That was a big part of my pitch to Miramax."
Essentially he directed it since he thought it wasn't going to get made otherwise so he might as well do it and do it on the cheap. Plus, while he apparently really liked Kaufman's script, that didn't mean he was above changing it, much to the chagrin of Kaufman.

Was this in Kaufman's original script?
Who knows, I still haven't watched the film yet.

According to Kaufman, while he was completely involved in the process with directors Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, Clooney wasn't interested in hearing his input once filming started. He obviously wasn't happy that if rewrites were needed, that he wasn't consulted (and there is more than one account that Clooney did the rewrites himself). So Kaufman issued this sick burn,
Clooney went on forever about how my Confessions screenplay was one of the greatest scripts he’d read. But if someone truthfully felt that way they’d want the person who wrote it to be on board offering their thoughts and criticisms. But Clooney didn’t. And I think it’s a silly way to be a director.
Clearly Kaufman cuts deep. And although Clooney has gone on record stating that Confessions was a great screenplay, it is somewhat telling that he never once mentions Kaufman during the DVD commentary of the film.

"We never speak his name." - Clooney, probably

So it's not altogether that surprising that when Paramount decided to run a Charlie Kaufman retrospective with participating theatres in the U.S following the release of Anomalisa, that Confessions of a Dangerous Mind wasn't included (neither was Human Nature but we'll get there when we get there). There is some speculation that this is because of the non-credited influence Clooney had over the script and final product.

Confessions is like the bastard child Kaufman acknowledges is his but will never legitimised as a heir to Winterfell. He has all but disowned the film and it is rarely discussed or mentioned as a 'Charlie Kaufman film' which makes it an interesting anomaly in his body of work. An anomalisa, if you will.

Now, with all the backstory of the movie's development and awkward parentage out of the way, let's get into the first ever Musings From Another Star live blog review.

Wait... Both Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are in this?

Second Half: Confessions of a Live Blog Review

The film opens with Sam Rockwell's naked butt and philosophical narration. Which is a good place to start. This follows a disclaimer that the film is based on Chuck Barris' journals and stuff. We then get a separated-by-a-door dialogue exchange between Rockwell's Barris and Drew Barrymore's Penny Pacino.

What is immediately noticeable is the impressive lighting with the use of shadow and interesting cinematography in the shot from inside Barris' apartment, with Rockwell's face only partially light. The colour palette is interesting too since Clooney uses different effects to show the different stages of Barris' life.

Also, Michael Cera is young Chuck Barris.

They also drop a nice little nod to Clooney's father's talk show as a tour guide rattles off a list of TV shows in the NBC foyer. The film flicks between the narrative and what appears to be documentary talking head clips for some reason that is a little disorientating at first before you figure out what's going on.

There is a lot of Rockwell's butt in this movie. When his character meets Barrymore's his stark naked standing in a fridge because he has a hell of a butt, you guys. There's then a montage of Chuck and Penny making love in the shower and other places that ends with them completely pashing each other's faces in a cinema full of people dutifully watching a movie. This is a reversal of the earlier shot where Chuck was striking out with a girl in a cinema full of people making out.

What? You thought I wasn't going to put a picture of Rockwell's fine derriere? No way.

After that, there's a neat bit where the camera zooms in for an extreme close up on Rockwell's face as Penny is talking to Chuck as he gets the idea for a TV game show, then zooms out as he is pitching his idea for The Dating Game to a board of television executives.

Here comes the successful TV pilot show montage. Oh wait, no. ABC passed on it for a show called Hootenanny. Better luck next time Chuck. Oooh, there's Clooney! I saw him in the background in a previous shot but now here's his face right and centre.

So of course, Chuck noticed Clooney watching him and accuses his character of pedophilia. They then have lunch together as Clooney's CIA agent tells Chuck he wants him to be an independent contractor working unofficially for the CIA to help stifle the rise of communism.

Naturally, the CIA wants an unsuccessful 32 year old television producer to be an assassin for them. Since Jesus was 33 when he died and came back to life so he better start cracking, as CIA agent Clooney explains. Here follows a rather amusing assassin training montage which is darkly offbeat.

Darkly offbeat and with science!

Alright, talking head who knows a lot about Chuck Barris but won't tell us, don't tell, I don't care. I know it's just set up for the the next scene when Chuck has his first mission in Mexico to kill a bad guy. We know he's bad since CIA agent Clooney tells him so. Cut to the future? with bearded Chuck and Rockwell's naked butt watching TV playing the American national anthem.

Cut back to the late 1960s? and Penny is now a hippie. We know this because she tells us. She is also dressed as a hippie. She had been crashing at Chuck's apartment and informed him the Larry Goldberg from ABC left a call. Oooh, nice split screen effect during the phone call when Chuck calls him back.

His first tapes of the show are too lewd and sexual for ABC's liking so they have to make it less so which leads to a drill inspector scene of some kind. And it's a hit and we've jumped several years. CIA Clooney's back with a new mission for Barris.

He also gives Chuck a new idea to improve the show by upping the stakes for the game show by giving the couple a date in Europe where he would be the chaperon, which would work as cover for his mission.

Oh, there's Pitt and Damon! And they've lost to chubby bachelor number 3. Well, I guess they were technically in the film. For all of 2 seconds.

Hi and bye guys.

And now, we have spy stuff. Haha, Chuck went into the wrong booth occupied by a sexy lady. Now he's in the right booth occupied by a femme fatale Julia Roberts. The musical score in this scene is great, jazzy and noir-ish. Huh? He's just killed someone and I have no idea why.

This is followed by a scene with Robert's sexy spy Patricia which is gorgeously lit by candles and the fireplace fire. Then they have sex, I think.

Now, we have The Newlywed Game, which has something to do with a fridge? Apparently contestants sold out their new marriage for a household appliance. And another fireplace fire lit scene but with Penny this time. She brings up marriage which freaks Barris out.

But just look how well shot both scenes are.

Holy shit, Julia Robert's femme spy just told Barris "kill for me, baby" while he is on a mission in West Berlin. I can't tell what tone this film is going for but it is enjoyable trying to figure it out though. I'm going for satirical with a bit of its tongue in cheek.

Wait, what? Chubby contestant number 3 is a KGB spy? Well, okay then.

Now we have The Gong Show which seems like a precursor to American Idol if it was limited to just the opening auditions with all the terrible singers. Chuck isn't happy that he was lowering the bar of American television by giving people the lowest common denominator.

"I hate that which I have created and there is no redemption for what I have transgressed," - Barris, probably.

And we're back to spy stuff. Meeting with another spy to discuss why they do the spy stuff they do. Again, the lighting is exquisite. Oh, and now the tone has gone really dark as the older spy describes his first kill and we see a flashback of Chuck's first kill.

Shit, the older spy just committed suicide. Where did this dark turn come from? Like, seriously. I was enjoying this relatively light film that just went suicidal on me.

I like the clever double romance montage with Penny and Patricia set to a terrible performance of "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" by an Elvis impersonator. It's quite funny seeing Chuck and Patricia flirt while assassinating people and a little moving to see Penny and Chuck's relationship.

And now it's heavy again as Penny catches Chuck having sex with another woman. In their house. Where they live together. Not cool. But again, shot cleverly as Chuck and the other woman are shot in silhouette. This is followed by a touching reconciliation scene with Penny and Chuck where he tells her she loves her in his own way. Which is a dick thing to say but Rockwell sells it.

Still really like having them shot in dark silhouette to symbolise their guilt or whatever.

CIA Clooney and Chuck have a confrontational scene where he tells him to go after the mole who killed the suicide guy from earlier (oh, yeah, it wasn't a suicide). But now Clooney, CIA agent has killed himself in an absolute gorgeous shot by the pool as blood flows delicately into the water...

Minor key piano single chord doodling dominates now as Chuck spirals into paranoia and the film puts out a number of impressive visual tricks as we get a montage of flashbacks and glimpses of Chuck's mind. This is the closet the film has gotten to feeling like a pure Charlie Kaufman film.

Why did he go to Patricia when its obvious he should be with Penny and he feels bad about how their relationship turned out? Also, their relationship is cuter. Although Patricia does know him more since they've spied together.

She just poisoned him. Apparently she's the mole and killed everyone. Oooh, wait. It's a bluff. He knew the was poisoned and made it look like he switched the cups so she would switch them and poison herself. Well-played.

Oh yeah, Chuck and Penny get married!

Hmm, that was a weird wedding. Oh, it transitioned to Chuck and Penny's wedding where the pastor just listed off all the shows Chuck has made over the course of his career... and he's just told Penny he killed people for the CIA and she doesn't believe him.

The last game show idea Chuck gives in the film is called the Old Game, where a group of old men come onstage with loaded guns and describe their lives and how close they came to realise their dreams. The winner is the one who doesn't blow his brains out. The film ends with a shot of the real, aged, Chuck Barris in 2002.

Cue the fun "There's No Business Like Show Business" credit music song!

End of Film Thoughts: 


This whole film is a testament to Clooney's visual sense and how closely he works with his cinematographers while directing. It's a bit crazy this is first film considering how clear his sense of how to use the camera is.

That said, aside from a couple of scenes, the movie never really feels like a Charlie Kaufman film since Clooney's directing sensibility is quite at odds with Kaufman's writing. That doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable, because it is, even if the tone is a little inconsistent. But it is quite clear why most people often don't include this film when they think of Charlie Kaufman movies.


Musing Rating - 3 Musings

There's enough going on the film that it's quite an enjoyable watch and Clooney definitely impresses for a first time debut by an actor turned director. But there isn't much left to say once the film ends aside from, "that was interesting" and "damn, Sam Rockwell has a nice butt".



References:

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Wikipedia page

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - IMDb

George Clooney Confessions of a Dangerous Mind interview - BBC

George Clooney talks about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - About.com

Sam Rockwell talks about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - About.com

Drew Barrymore talks about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - About.com

Inside screenwriter Kaufman's Mind - BBC Online

Charlie Kaufman Wasn’t Pleased With ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ - Slash Film

Do Not Miss Charlie Kaufman Retrospective - Slash Film

Man With a Mission: Get the Film Made - New York Times

26 Things We Learned From the 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' Commentary -
Film School Rejects



Friday, 4 March 2016

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Remembering How to Forget

They say love hurts. But what hurts far more is remembering a love that is no more. That remembrance is what really hurts. Remembering what was lost, what you had, what could have been. Remembering the times shared, the minuscule intimate moments, the private conversations and public displays, the complete happiness and utter despair. Remembering what went so right you couldn't believe it was true. Remembering what went wrong but not sure if you could have done anything to stop it.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a love story about memory. Or a memory story about love. Whichever you prefer. It examines ideas about memory, love, heartbreak, loss, and the dissolution of romantic relationships. In other words, it looks at why breakups suck and whether it would be better to just forget.

"But is it though?" - Clementine, maybe

Since the film came out in 2004 and has made a bit of an impact on the cultural consciousness, I'm not going to give any spoiler warnings or describe the plot in great detail since I'm assuming it's common pop culture knowledge. If you haven't seen the film, you probably should since it's pretty fantastic, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself.

The basic premise of the film is that Joel Barish, played by Jim Carrey, has his memories of his relationship with Clementine Kruczynski, Kate Winslet, erased after he learns that she has had her memories of him erased from her memory following a fight/breakup. He does this through an unexplained medical procedure which exists in the world of the film that is done while he sleeps. Most of the film flicks between the real world and Joel's dream/memory world as his brain fights the procedure and tries to hang on to his memories of Clementine.

Science!

Before I get into the memory part of the review or start talking about love and loss, I just want to take a moment to comment on the science in the film, or lack thereof. I mean, there is science in the film but it's not actual science. They never give any explanation or offhand remark about how it actually works. They tell Joel what the procedure does but not how it does what it does. It just does.

It's movie magic science. It works because it works, don't ask how since it's not important. In many films this is often the result of poor writing where they haven't taken the time to think out the logistics or mechanics of the fictional world and just need a handy narrative device.

But the thing is, in Eternal Sunshine it isn't important how the machine works. We don't need the explanation since that's not what the focus is on. The details of how something works aren't important since it is the emotional impact of memory which Kaufman wants to explore, not the science of memory. Kaufman isn't a writer who write scripts for the head, although his films would have you believe this due to their surreal nature. Rather he is a writer who writes stories for the heart.

"Awww, that's sweet." - Clementine, maybe.

If the film was about the science of memory, there could have been some sense of how memory is incredibly flawed and constructed. Our memories are never actually perfect records of the events that we experienced. Memories are more like stories made up of details we can recall, correctly or not, shaped into narratives imposed on them so they make sense. Narratives which are informed by how we feel when we remember them.

Then the film could have focussed on Joel's flawed recollections of his relationship with Clementine or something along those lines. And while there is the slightest hint of that in the way Joel's memories are limited or certain details are forgotten, the film treats memory as infallible when it is in fact very fallible.

"Okay. This might not be exactly how I remember it." - Joel, most likely.

But then again, that's not the point Kaufman is trying to make. He's not concerned with memory in and of itself. Rather he is more interested in how he can use the idea of a person erasing their memories of a relationship as a narrative device to explore how a breakup and memories affect us. It is the emotional core at the heart of the idea which is the focus, not the hows or whys of the idea. 

What's a clever twist is that rather than showing us the beginnings of their relationship and how they got to the point where they break up and are hurt enough to want to erase their memories, Kaufman flips it. We start with the end and work our way backwards. From the hurt and tatters of an emotionally drained relationship back to the bright and exciting blossoming of new love.

Blossoming and Kentucky fried.

By showing us the relationship in reverse, it has even more of an emotional impact at the end of the film once Joel has had his memories erased. That's the other thing, Kaufman doesn't cop out. Joel's memories are erased.

There's no hammy ending where he has managed to hold on to his memories of Clementine by the power of love. Although it is ultimately hopeful as they both agree to try again despite knowing they have had their memories of their previous relationship erased.

And that's the real point. Love is hard, people are difficult to live with, relationships are tough, and memories can hurt. But it is worth trying. Love and happiness is worth the attempt even if it might fall through. Or your memories are erased.


Musings Rating: 5 Musings

The type of movie that academics write complex theses on while everyone else quotes the quotable quotes endlessly and talks about how cool the memory sequences looked. A lot of musing to be had.


References:

About Me

My photo

This introduction is supposed to let you know that you have found the correct Caleb. 

I am here to tell that your search is over. I am indeed the correct Caleb for any given situation. Parties, hunter-gatherings, long walks on the beach, shindigs, guest appearances, and so much more. I am an multi-purpose Caleb guaranteed to impress friends and influence your uncle.

I also write stuff online.