Monday, 18 January 2010

I love charlie...

No, not Charlie the cat...

although I do love Charlie the cat, he was the moral ambassador of my childhood.

No, not Charlie Brooker...

although I do love his Screen Burn, which always gives me a chuckle when I read the Guardian.

No, today, I want to big up Charlie Kaufman... in my eyes, God of Screenwriting, and the crazy, brilliant mind behind many of my favourite films. Sigh.

I have been having a season of watching the films he's written. I mean, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favourite films of all time. I think it's GENIUS. Firstly, the premise, of erasing an old lover, and then meeting and falling in love with them again because you can't remember it going wrong. In fact, choosing to fall in love with them again, even though Clementine and Joel find out they erased eachother. Genius. The quirkiness of the characters, how relevant their thoughts are in today's messy world, how confused, how wonderfully naive and knowing and anxious and cool. The fact I cry my bloody eyes out every time I watch it. (and how many times is that...?)

I love everything about this film. Even Jim Carrey. Actually especially Jim Carrey, he is brilliant, don't let all his other films put you off this one. He is brilliant, as is gorgeous Kate Winslett with blue/orange/whatever colour hair and the rest of the cast, and with script like this, how can it be wrong:

Clementine: Look man, I'm telling you right off the bat, I'm high-maintainance, so... I'm not gonna tip-toe around your marriage, or whatever it is you've got goin' there. If you wanna be with me, you're with me.
Joel: Okay.
Clementine: Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours.
Joel: I remember that speech really well.
Clementine: I had you pegged, didn't I?
Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.
Clementine: Hmm. Probably.
Joel: I still thought you were gonna save my life... even after that.
Clementine: Ohhh... I know.
Joel: It would be different, if we could just give it another go-round.
Clementine: Remember me. Try your best; maybe we can.

Sigh, oh god it's like my life...

Moving on... I saw Synecdoche New York at the cinema last year, a piece of brilliance written and directed by Kaufman. It's one of the weirdest films ever. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a theatre director who rents a warehouse where he creates a set of New York City, and hires actors to play his real life friends, and himself, and later a character to play the actor who plays himself. Reality and theatre blur, as do his relationships within the play/life, as he continues this for years while his brain seems to be affected by some kind of dementia.

I didn't realise how this film, is an extension, deeper exploration of his ideas from other films. Of course, Being John Malkovich explores ideas about reality/unreality/losing reality/the mind/how the mind works/what would happen if... where he stretches his ideas into a quirky kind of geek science fiction for cool people that is a common theme in all his films.

I didn't realise that Adaptation stretches this sense of reality/unreality even further by putting himself into the script, making himself the central character, as a kind of real/realistic/but fictional character. I watched Adaptation this weekend and it totally blew my mind, it is AMAZINGLY GOOD. I mean, stop for breath, how can I explain? It made me think, oh my god what are most scriptwriters doing, why are they playing with this idea of story that is SO limiting, why are they not experimenting like this, pushing the boundaries, challenging, undermining, subverting, pushing... like Charlie Kaufman, genius of writing.

I love the way in this film, he exploits the book 'Story' by Robert McKee, that most writers should be familiar with. It is sold as the BIBLE of scriptwriting, indeed the BIBLE of story. And in Adaptation, Kaufman rips it apart, humiliates it, at the same time as subjugating to the message, giving himself over to it, not selling out, but ironically breaking all McKee's rules as well as (in the end) doing everything that he advocates. I was totally WOWed.

And the script is genius. He uses his life, references his other work (the film opens with Nicholas Cage, playing Charlie Kaufman on the set of the film Being John Malkovich.. I mean, how cool...). It deals with the process of writing a script (this is a film script by Charlie Kaufman about Charlie Kaufman writing the script of a film about a woman who has written a book about a man who steals orchids, and how these lives crash into eachother). It is about everything, and is so self-effacing:

"I am old. I am fat. I am bald. My toenails have turned strange. I am repulsive. How repulsive? I don’t know for I suffer from a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I am fat, but am I as fat as I think? My therapist says no, but people lie. I believe others call me Fatty behind my back. Or Fatso. Or, facetiously, Slim. But I also believe this is simply my own perverted form of self-aggrandizement, that no one really talks about me at all. Why would they? What possible interest is an old, bald, fat man to anyone? I am repulsive. I have never lived. I blame myself." - Charlie Kaufman (screenplay, 2nd draft)

I don't know, I feel breathless even writing about it.

And then last week I watched Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which to be honest, I could write about for about a week. Another reality/unreality theme, based on the memoir of Chuck Barris about his double life as game show producer and host/CIA hitman. I mean, was this guy really working for the CIA or was he seriously mentally deluded? Charlie Kaufman writes a script without showing us the answers, and hell, it's a brilliant story.

Can you tell how much I love Charlie? How much of a genius I think he is?

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