Charlie Kauffman

Having written an entire post on Surrealism, you might be wondering how I missed mentioning the greatest surrealist of our times, the one and only Mr. Charlie Kaufman. Well, for one – it is impossible to cover everybody in one post and I am no expert at non-digression to achieve comprehensive and in-depth analysis of one subject in and of itself. But then, you already know that about me, don’t you? The more important reason, however, is that it is impossible and downright wrong to slot Charlie Kaufman as just a surrealist. He is his own genre and I absolutely unabashedly worship his writing. So much so that I even tried to pull off a one page “Adaptation”, if I can in fact take the liberty to call this an adaptation of the writing style of Adaptation – the first film written by Charlie Kaufman I saw. This was back in 2008 when I had all the free time, a monthly pass and unlimited access to dozens of DVD’s from the Block Buster store 2 blocks from home in Iowa.

Adaptation was the first movie that made me sit up and notice the writing – you know, the script. Unless you are a big movie buff and highly interested in trivial pursuits (which I was not at that time, but I am now), there is no way you are going to make the distinction between the plot, the story, the narrative style, the script and how it is all executed. All of this is generally just “the movie” itself to an average movie goer. I bet this movie changes that perception – any average movie goer will sit up and notice how amazing the script is – you know the way the scenes were written in paper, the progression of madness and chaos of the writing itself. Or maybe, it was just a trippy experience for me. At the end of watching the movie, I felt that the visuals and the way they were presented – existed merely to showcase what an amazingly written piece of work the script was. You can argue that this is a perfectly acceptable way of defining success for the film itself . Or you can argue that, this dissociation of the script from its execution is unhealthy for the film. Or, all of this might seem like a non issue that I am making a big deal of. Well, the writing has never been more important to me than after I saw this movie. The fact that the writing (not dialogues) shined through and through excited me as though I had written it myself. I cannot explain it.

So, no prizes for guessing that I was extremely amused when I wiki’ed the movie after watching it. The script for Adaptation was written by Charlie Kaufman when he was trying to adapt a book called “The Orchid Thief”. He couldn’t adapt the book and so wrote a movie script of his attempt at trying to adapt it and failing miserably. And how entertaining that became!

Since watching Adaptation, I have watched every single movie that Charlie Kaufman wrote starting from Human Nature. Being John Malkovich followed, it was his first script that became a film. This was at a time when John Malkovich was still doing interesting work – you know like that role in Burn after reading (no, no. Don’t worry. I won’t go off on a tangent and discuss this movie now. The Coen brothers deserve their own separate post!). Unlike the pompous ass on the new IPhone Siri commercial that he has now reduced himself to (Linguica? Really? WTF is that? And who exactly is this ad supposed to be targetted for? Topic for another day.)

Confessions of a dangerous mind followed and I was feeling sad for Charlie since George Clooney had completely lost the point of the script while attempting to direct it. Atleast that’s how it seemed to me. And then, he reunited with Michael Gondry (the director of Human Nature) and together they made poetry on film in the form of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I watched this film with appa and amma. Appa was completely bored and nodded off while Amma was completely enthralled! The two of us loved the film and I was left wondering at how so much insanity and chaos could have so much heart in it. This was the only movie other than The Truman Show, in which I actually liked Jim Carrey. Its an utter shame that he doesn’t get more roles like these and has to keep doing meaningless Ace Ventura type movies even today. Coincidentally (or maybe not), Andrew Niccol who wrote the script for The Truman Show, also wrote the spectacular Lord of War which is the only movie other than Adaptation where I have liked Nicholas Cage. (Trivia – if you haven’t watched Lord of War, watch it atleast for the goose bumps you get when you hear A.R. Rahman’s Bombay theme play during a very important and understated sequence).

Synecdoche, New york

And then he turned director with Synecdoche, New york – my absolute favorite of all his scripts by far. It is not hard to imagine why I like Charlie’s writings when you watch this particular movie. This movie is the ultimate conceited exercise in obsessing over deconstructing oneself by becoming an audience in one’s own life and applying extreme objectivity to one’s own existential crisis. You see, I have always been doing the same thing that Charlie is doing in my smallish attempts at writing (sample this for a bite of existential narcissism). And I say that with a lot of humility and with just a need to state the obvious.

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