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Eternal Sunshine

Tonight I saw a preview of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", the new film by Charlie ("Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation") Kaufman. It's one of those films that calls Phillip K. Dick to mind, as it works gets into the protagonist's head and shifts point of view more often than a freshman short story. The premise is that memories can be medically erased, creating a clean slate for people to start over without pain. Sure, it's a mainstream film, but it borrows from the SF tradition of "Soldier of Arete" or "Bladerunner".

And that's not quite it either. "Eternal Sunshine" is really a meditation on remorse and compromise. Kaufman explores the compromise and messiness of adult relationships, without ever veering into dull arthouse angst or preachy melodrama. It's by far the best film Jim Carrey has ever starred in, though the humor is mostly nervous laughter rather than gut-busting. Kate Winslet does a fine turn here, in a role that's mature and tricky and not entirely sympathetic.

The writing is almost impossible to laud too highly. It sneaks up on you. Stereotypes are constantly subverted. Plot arcs don't really arc so much as collide and u-turn. It's one of those movies that I feared would tumble into a bitter, unhappy ending. I won't give it away, but, despite the title, it's hardly a saccharine picture.

Finally, it's worth mentioning the brilliant use of CGI in this film. There are no monsters and spaceships, but the use of dissolves, overlays, and interwoven imagery deserves applause. It's subtle enough at the time that it seems entirely normal (well, as normal as a Kaufman film gets), but looking back, it's clear that there were literally dozens if not a hundred or more effects shots. Seeing the technology in a non-effects-driven film indicates to me that the full artistic potential of digital effects is yet to come.

Oh, and that title? It's from Alexander Pope, from "Eloisa to Abelard":
How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot:
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd.


( 6 sutras — Your wisdom )
Mar. 10th, 2004 10:57 pm (UTC)
Remarkably, many of those presumably CGI shots were really physical or in-camera shots. I'll lend you the Premiere article that Reveals All.
Mar. 11th, 2004 06:32 pm (UTC)
I'm astounded. It just looked impossible to do with sets and lighting.
Mar. 12th, 2004 01:43 am (UTC)
To clarify, I'm sure some of those shots did include CGI. The big effects, like his leaving the bookstore and ending up in his apartment, however, were done all with lights and stagecraft. Lots of the blurry backgrounds were created with this gauzy plastic, and other effects were in-camera, rather than computer-generated.
Mar. 11th, 2004 02:24 am (UTC)
I'm glad to hear that it's good. I was planning on seeing it anyway given that Gondry is a fantastic director (his music videos for Bjork and the White Stripes are painfully awesome).
Mar. 11th, 2004 07:22 am (UTC)
I've been wanting to see this and somehow missed that Warren Report was running it. this just confirms the desire.
Mar. 11th, 2004 10:31 am (UTC)
Splendid review, thanks. I've been debating whether to see this one or not; now I will.
( 6 sutras — Your wisdom )

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