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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)


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Yeah, I have to say kudos to the casting director. I'm a big fan of all of these actors, except Kate Winslet. Never been her biggest fan. However, with Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson, I'm not too worried.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I have to say, I am a Jim Carrey fan as well. I hope that he gets his due in this film, the respect that he failed to get for his take on Andy Kaufmann.

The director is the guy who did all those Bjork videos isn't it? I am sure Prins would know, but those are some of the coolest music videos ever put together.

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If I were to pick what I consider the twenty best music videos of all time, Michel Gondry would have directed about half of them. (Spike Jonze would have three or four; no one else would have more than one.) His ad for Smirnoff (which Jonze admits he pilfered from for the through-Malcovich's-subconscious scene in BJM) is the most award-winning commercial of all time, according to Guiness. Two years ago I would have considered him my favorite non-Mike-Leigh director.

But then. Human Nature, his first and (until Mind is released) only feature film, sucked. I gave it a very kind B-, but as I wrote at the time, "There is not one moment of this film that is as inspired as even a below-average Gondry music video (say, Bj

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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How do you guys ever see music videos anymore? Whenever i flip on MTV -- which is a rare occasion -- all i get are stupid shows about early 20 somethings' love lives and sex romps. Or Jackass or the Osbournes, but those two i tend to stick around for.

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Two words: em too. I haven't had it in about two years now, however, so it may have lost something since the olden days.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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  • 5 months later...

I have seen the new Charlie Kaufman film, directed by Michael Gondry, and it is very much a continuation of the ideas presented in Being John Malkovich. If you remember the part where they're running through Malkovich's head and encountering all kinds of surreal stuff, well, this movie pretty much dwells in that kind of reality.

Jim Carrey gives one of his most understated, mature performances, and he reminds me a LOT of Kaufman, not in his appearance but in his manner and mood. He plays Joel, a guy madly in love, and then deeply wounded, who chooses to have the memory of his beloved erased from his mind.

Kate Winslet has made the same, being the woman that left him. Winslet is a delight here, finally allowed to play a "typical American girl" instead of a pretentious artist. She seems somehow younger in this film than she has in recent performances. There's a giddy energy and cheer to her performance that makes it my favorite of her roles.

The cast is filled out brilliantly by Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and that dude who played Henry Fool (what's his name again?).

And then there's Elijah Wood, in a role that's a startling change of pace. In a way, the guy is pretty much Elijah Wood without much of a performance, but then the choices that he's making show he's a sinister and dangerous brat.

The real triumph of this film is the way the editing and set design create a surreal unpredictability. Sets change suddenly, so that when the camera turns away from one place and then turns back, that place is totally different, and yet there's been no "cut." Time and place are folded over, under, and into each other in fantastic, inventive ways you've never seen before. I'm not sure yet, but this may be my favorite Kaufman film. It is the first of his stories that has conluded in a way that I found deeply satisfying.

It's a bright spot on the movie calendar.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

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Y'know, Jeff, I have read none of this except for your first paragraph and the phrase "bright spot on the movie calendar", and I think that's all I want to know, for now -- the trailer has me very excited, and I'm a big fan of memory-loss movies, so I'm really looking forward to this. But thanks for letting me know that this spot on the calendar IS bright. smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: Sets change suddenly, so that when the camera turns away from one

: place and then turns back, that place is totally different, and yet there's

: been no "cut."

For further reading: Michel Gondry's video for "Lucas With the Lid On" and his commercial for Smirnoff, which (apparently, as I've not yet seen Eternal Sunshine) both use a similar technique.

Given various huzzahs and my undying love for all things Gondry (Human Nature excepted), I am convinced this is going to knock out The Son as my favorite movie of the decade. I worry that I will be terribly disappointed.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Well, don't get your hopes TOO high. The cleverness in the film is a little excessive, and some parts just feel like goofing around a bit too indulgently. It also runs too long. But it is very enjoyable. I'll recommend it, but I won't be recommending it as Best Narrative Film.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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: Sets change suddenly, so that when the camera turns away from one  

: place and then turns back, that place is totally different, and yet there's  

: been no \"cut.\"  

For further reading: Michel Gondry's video for \"Lucas With the Lid On\" and his commercial for Smirnoff, which (apparently, as I've not yet seen Eternal Sunshine) both use a similar technique.

Given various huzzahs and my undying love for all things Gondry (Human Nature excepted), I am convinced this is going to knock out The Son as my favorite movie of the decade.  I worry that I will be terribly disappointed.

You might want to lower the expectations at least a little bit, Dale. Sunshine is wonderfully inventive and creative, and Jeffrey's exactly right that Kate Winslet is fantastic. But the movie doesn't quite cohere for me. Also, it feels more like a Charlie Kaufman picture than a Michel Gondry picture.

Regarding the editing, it is fairly spectacular but not in the way the Smirnoff ad is. It's a lot more subtle, with some wonderful use of match-on-match editing. Jeffrey mentioned that there's not a cut, but I don't think that's right. Rather, I think it's so seemlessly edited we don't notice the cuts. But it is an editing trick as opposed to a special effects trick. I'd have to see it again to make sure, though.

I have to think more about this one, but right now it's not top10 material for me, but I'm looking forward to the discussions it provokes.

J Robert

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As I've said before, I sat through half an hour of distraction before Passion and the trailer for Sunshine is about the only distinct thing I remember from that half hour now. Of course, I'm a fan of Carrey, Wilkinson, and, Dunst so this is a predetermined entry on my list.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Saw it today. Liked it. But still liked Adaptation better. Will wait until seeing it a second time before making a definitive pronouncement, though, since I didn't know how much I liked Adaptation until I saw THAT film a second time, too.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just got back from the screening. WOW! This film knocked me for a loop. I liked it a LOT -- and that's coming from someone who respects but LOATHES Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.

The film starts with what looks like another one of Kaufman's typical excursions into self-loathing, misanthropic solipsism, with emotionally paralyzed, introspective males, sexually predatory, capricious females, and the possibility for real human connection nowhere in sight -- but as the film goes on, Kaufman first reinterprets and then transcends the stunted stereotypes of his earlier work, and finally raises his head from the fog of narcissistic existential despair and dares to HOPE.

Hope that human beings really can engage one another -- that it is possible to get beyond self-centered projections of what we want other people to be, what we want from one another, how we can use one another, and really be WITH one another, and that in this is joy.

Hope that the fact that we are screwed up, that we are damaged goods, doesn't mean we are doomed to isolation and loneliness.

Hope that love has a significance that survives even the death of memory itself (which I took as a kind of metaphor for death, especially in the last scene in the remembered beach house).

I liked the fantasy conceit better than that of Being John Malkovich -- it's cleaner, more direct, and better conceived and developed. I like the way the film plays with real and imaginary narratives much better than Adaptation. In fact, I think that Kaufman realizes here what he was only straining at in his earlier films. For my money, this is not only his most enjoyable and most human film, but also his most mature and best conceived.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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SDG wrote:

: The film starts with what looks like another one of Kaufman's typical

: excursions into self-loathing, misanthropic solipsism, with emotionally

: paralyzed, introspective males, sexually predatory, capricious females,

: and the possibility for real human connection nowhere in sight -- but as

: the film goes on, Kaufman first reinterprets and then transcends the

: stunted stereotypes of his earlier work, and finally raises his head from

: the fog of narcissistic existential despair and dares to HOPE.

You are right, of course, that this may be the first Kaufman film to present human beings really engaging one another etc. (I can't recall how this might or might not have fit into Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, though). But right now, I still think I like Adaptation better, because instead of giving me the experience of WATCHING people have hope, which is what Eternal Sunshine did, Adaptation gave me the experience of HAVING hope -- perhaps not hope for the sort of truly inter-subjective relationship that the characters in this film are forging, but at least hope of reaching beyond un-critical impulse and critical thinking into what Marcus Borg has called "post-critical naivete". Watching Adaptation, I personally EXPERIENCED what the Kaufman character goes through, being aware of how the film was made and how the story was constructed, yet also experiencing a genuine personal and emotional connection to the film despite the way the film exposed the mechanisms of that connection. Watching Eternal Sunshine, I do not EXPERIENCE what the characters go through to that same degree; but I do feel happy for them when it's over.

: Hope that love has a significance that survives even the death of

: memory itself (which I took as a kind of metaphor for death . . .

But of course! Like McCoy says, "He's not dead ... so long as we remember him." smile.gif

Of course, this theme is also present in 50 First Dates, too. smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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raises his head from the fog of narcissistic existential despair and dares to HOPE.

TREADING INTO SPOILER TERRITORY...

And when I complimented him on this, he looked at me quizzically and replied that [in paraphrase] "your interpretation is certainly valid, but it seems to me it could also be a very bleak and despairing ending. Because that's all happening in the past... A few hours later, he won't even remember that that took place."

This threw *me* for a loop. I was thinking that, no matter what the consequences of the erasure, at least Joel has come to an important realization that will stay with the audience. We're not going to have that erased from our memories.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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TREADING INTO SPOILER TERRITORY...

And when I complimented him on this, he looked at me quizzically and replied that [in paraphrase] \"your interpretation is certainly valid, but it seems to me it could also be a very bleak and despairing ending. Because that's all happening in the past... A few hours later, he won't even remember that that took place.\"

MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE...

???

Yes, he will. Wait. What are you talking about?

Unless I missed something, the final ending isn't something he forgets a few hours later. I'm talking after they've both had their memories wiped, and then come back together again, and then they both learn what has happened, that they each agreed to erase the other, that their relationship has in a sense failed before it began, so why bother trying?

But then there's that scene in Joel's hallway, where Clementine is walking out but Joel goes after her and stops her. In spite of their forgotten past together, in spite of the shadow of failure that hangs over their relationship, Joel says "Wait." And she does.

The soul of the film, for me, is almost summed up in that single word "Wait." It's the moment it becomes clear that the film is not finally going to give over in the end to despair. "Wait" here seems to mean "I'm not ready to give up." Beyond naivete, beyond illusion, they dare to hope. They know they will discover one another's foibles all over again, they know they will probably drive one another crazy, yet they don't consider that a reason to give up before they've started. And it's not self-centered, not about what the other person can do for me; it is a genuine connection of two selves.

Or did I miss some final kink in the movie's timeline? Is there another memory wipe that comes a few hours after the scene in the hallway? I hadn't thought so. Is Kaufman missing something or am I?

Actually, there is one thing about the memory wipe thing that bothers me, narrative wise. Unless I missed something, Joel gets his memory wiped only once. But the procedure seems to start in Tom Wilkinson's office, yet most of it takes place in Joel's apartment, where he wakes up. There aren't two memory wipes, are there?

Help?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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It baffled me too, and I think I need to see it again to figure it out.

MAJOR SPOILERS

Are we certain that the final scene is happening in reality and not in his own mind? Are we certain that's the real Clementine talking and not one he's conjured up from his impressions of her?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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MAJOR SPOILERS

Are we certain that the final scene is happening in reality and not in his own mind? Are we certain that's the real Clementine talking and not one he's conjured up from his impressions of her?

Gosh, I have to say so.

Here is a sequence of events that I think must be real world: Carrie kisses Dr. Howard in Joel's living room; Carrie discovers that she has a forgotten history with Dr. Howard; Carrie hears her own tapes and does a complete 180 in her estimation of the virtue of Dr. Howard's work; Carrie distributes Joel's and Clementine's tapes to them to let them know what they have done and what has been done to them.

The discussion in the hallway is clearly predicated on what must be the real-world listening to the tapes by Joel and Clementine. Joel's previous memories of Clementine have been so thoroughly demolished that there is no way to read that scene in the hallway as anything other than the real-world consequence of the chain of events described above.

At least, I can't see any other way to read things. Can you offer an alternative reading?

Peter?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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SDG wrote:

: Actually, there is one thing about the memory wipe thing that bothers

: me, narrative wise. Unless I missed something, Joel gets his memory

: wiped only once. But the procedure seems to start in Tom Wilkinson's

: office, yet most of it takes place in Joel's apartment, where he wakes up.

: There aren't two memory wipes, are there?

That part confused me, too. I can't say I remember what those guys were doing in Joel's apartment in the first place. I think I'll need to see this again.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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