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March 20, 2004

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

Spring is (essentially) here in New Hampshire, and that means cold rain/snow mixes and general gloom for just a bit more, when the green will take over from the sticks.

But today, I took a break from prepping my game world and my AmberCon characters and went to see a film. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the newest film to spring from the complex, surrealistic pen of Charlie Kaufman, and it has many traits in common with its earlier siblings.

This time, reality's little twist isn't a door into an actors head, a writer caught in his own screenplay, or a CIA-recruited game show producer. Instead, we get the temptation of memory removal. A chance to lose parts of our past we don't want, gain a fresh start. But nothing is really that simple, particularly not in a Kaufman story. No, bad memory and good are hopelessly entangled, and we can't give one up without losing the other. That is the assumption the film starts with, and from there it gets more interesting.

Told in a complex time order reminiscent of Memento (a personal fave), this film lets us watch a relationship form, mature, shatter, and reform (maybe), though with some very unique complications. Jim Carrey (think The Truman Show, not The Mask) and Kate Winslet are entirely up to the challenge the material presents, as are the all too human memory removers, including a very non-Frodo Elijah Wood. In fact, the only thing I'm not sure it up to the material is the director. I haven't seen his previous Kaufman-penned film (Human Nature), but having seen what others have done with Kaufman, I have to say I found this under-stated. Well done, don't get me wrong, and sometimes delightful for its quiet presentation. I like the effects as memories fade particularly... words on signs go first, sometimes with the camera looking dead at them, but more often than not without us quite noticing when they started to fade. But after earlier, flashier presentations, I found this just slightly underplayed behind the camera. Some of the more impressive ideas and effects were almost lost by fairly direct staging and filming.

But this is at most a quibble. If you're at all interested in a romantic comedy that will make you laugh and make you think, then this one's worth your time.

Posted by ghoul at March 20, 2004 06:16 PM

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