Monday, February 9, 2009

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich; Fantasy satire, USA, 1999; D: Spike Jonze, S: John Cusack, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener, Cameron Diaz, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, Charlie Sheen

Craig is a downfallen puppeteer who lives with his wife Lotty, a pet shop owner. One day he finds a job in a building, on floor 7 1/2: there, everyone is weird, the boss is Mr. Lester while the ceiling is only 5 feet tall. When he drops his papers behind a cabinet, Craig finds a tunnel that leads him to a strange experience - his body disappears and he sees everything through the eyes of actor John Malkovich, but after 15 minutes he gets "expelled" and returns back to normal. He quickly starts selling tickets for the curious people and tries to seduce colleague Maxine, but she hates him. Thus Craig enters Malkovich's mind for permanent and marries Maxine. But Lester expels him since he used the portal as a host to prolong his life. Craig and some older people enter his mind again and become part of the mind of Malkovich's daughter, Emily.

This bizarre mix between satire and fantasy gathered screenwriter Charlie Kaufman instant attention for his, then rarely seen, audacious wild imagination that pushed the envelope and played with the reality (for starters, if John Malkovich refused to star in the film, would he have changed the title?) in this simple hypothetical idea in which people can take on the persona of the title actor and experience his life for 15 minutes. Through it, Kaufman presents a hidden critique of people without a real personality, identity, media, manipulation and absence of real life, yet it's somehow hard to shake off the impression that the story is just a different variation of the film "Truman's Show". It has a few amusing and funny moment, like the wacky video that explains how an Irish man built the short ceiling on floor 7 1/2 because he met a dwarf woman ("Can I ask you something?" - "Be gone, demon!" - "I just want to tell you how hard it is for us dwarfs..." - "Marry me!") or the sequence where Malkovich himself enters the portal to his mind and comes to a world full of his clones, which clearly shows how Kaufman uses no "gloves" when he writes his strange ideas on the screenplay. It's a symbolic film that causes awe, but it's also cold and slightly unfinished since the characters are all puppets, while precisely because of the for the imagination stimulative story, he and director Jonze didn't exploit all it's possibilities to the fullest.


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