A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, September 15, 2017

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Joel Barish: Jim Carrey
Clementine Kruczynski: Kate Winslet
Patrick: Elijah Wood
Stan: Mark Ruffalo
Mary: Kirsten Dunst
Dr. Mierzwiak: Tom Wilkinson

Director: Michel Gondry
Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth
Cinematography: Ellen Kuras
Production design: Dan Leigh
Film editing: Valdís Óskarsdóttir
Music: Jon Brion

I have a sneaky feeling that there's less to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind than meets the eye. That it is nothing more than a romantic drama tricked out with intricate storytelling devices like misleading cuts and deceptive flashbacks and an overlay of sci-fi. The story of the affair of two misfits, the morose Joel Barish and the eccentric Clementine Kruczynski, has been told before. How far, for example, are Joel and Clementine from C.C. Baxter and Fran Kubelik in Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960)? The course of true love never did run smooth, but Eternal Sunshine doubles down on that premise, putting Joel and Clementine through the bumpy paces twice, leaving us to ponder if Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, et al. are telling us that their mismatched couple were meant to be together no matter what. Did Joel and Clementine split prematurely, rushing into the radical solution of erasing themselves from each other's memories, when instead if they had stuck it out they could have resolved their differences less drastically? No matter, because Eternal Sunshine is so efficiently and originally accomplished that we can overlook the conventional situation that is masked by so much cleverness. It is certainly the peak of Jim Carrey's boom-or-bust career, Kate Winslet demonstrates once again how invaluable she is as an actress, and the supporting cast is made up of top-caliber actors. I suspect that the film owes more to the fertile imagination of Charlie Kaufman, who won an Oscar for it (along with Gondry and Pierre Bismuth), and film editor Valdís Oskarsdóttir than to Gondry's direction -- he has yet to make another film as impressive as this one.

Showtime

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