24 May 2008

74. being john malkovich

and so begins the real career of charlie kaufman. i remember not liking this much when it came out, although that was almost 10 years ago and now i can't remember why i felt that way. looking at it now, it is of course remarkable.

the step-up is quick and great. it hooks us in -- a puppet show! cut to see the master puppeteer alone in his studio, looking dishevelled and drinking a beer. he's broke, and his dowdy wife's work at a pet store doesn't help. he needs a job, any job. and so: the 7 1/2 floor, at which point he finds the portal and eventually becomes able to puppet a real human being.

the movie is really about the artistic process of any kind. our hero is a starving artist before he finds his muse. then, the portal to malkovich is described: "it's a god-like thing." it a literal way to describe what writers, actors and others do: they get into someone else's skin and see the world through their eyes.

because it is about the artistic process, it also hits on a theme that kaufman discusses in "adaptation": staying true to your vision. by staying in malkovich for good, cusack is using someone else's fame to advance his art. not bad to put puppetering into the mainstream, but he doesn't do it himself, so it doesn't count as a victory.

that's why he's stuck in another body at the end, still longing. he'll never be satisfied unless he does it on his own terms. so, like so many artists, he'll never be satisfied -- he's stuck forever.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There should be made a Being Amadeus, where Salieri obviously discovers a porthole into Wolfie's head and gets to make gorgeous music for 15 minutes at a time. Of course he may understand how while IN there, and perhaps be dictating it, but the credit will never be his.

I'm kidding of course.

I've watched this movie about as many times as The Departed, which is a whole damn lot. It was in LA at a strangers apartment. I felt wierd watching Catherine Keener aka "Lotte" ride Malkovich next to him at the time.

Amadeus the 'play' is at the Chicago Shakes in a month or less...

10:18 PM  

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