Worth mentioning: last night I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the new Kaufman/Gondry movie (starring Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey). You should see it; it's extraordinary in a lot of ways. It's like a less disorienting, more evenly textured, more classically dramatically structured Sans Soleil, and lacks the latter film's non sequitir quality. Strip away the sci-fi premise and it's just the best breakup film I've seen (better than, for instance, Kissing Jessica Stein in that it doesn't simply leave out the doing-the-relationship part in favour of the beginning and ending parts). Jim Carrey is a fine actor, I think, and does a commendable job (his scene on his knees, in the snow, will kill you if you let it), but Kate Winslet is startling. The supporting actors also do a fine job, and the ending scenes - the surprising end of the Lacuna Inc. workers subplot - are daringly given not to the stars but to the framing story, which nicely parallels the central breakup/forgetting plot.
And the score is absolutely fucking beautiful. Jon Brion is a magician (see Punch-Drunk Love if you don't believe me, but how could you not believe me?).
I should say: I wasn't nearly as discombobulated by the spatial/stylistic/temporal shifts as some reviewers seem to be, and I didn't find the 'spatial logic' as revolutionary either. The bravura visuals - particularly the train station, the baby memory(!), bookstore, and the gut-wrenching finale in the beach house - were somehow totally matter-of-fact, which is maybe the most revolutionary thing about the movie. I wonder how complex the visuals were for the effects team - it's heartening to think that this is the sort of thing that a small team of craftsmen could do, rather than an army of engineers (as on those other Elijah Wood movies - what were they called?). The inconsistencies in the 'rules' of the memory-world are only bothersome if you are the sort of person who requires such rules. Lemme put it this way: on a television show, it's important to establish such rules and stick to them. In a near-surrealist picture like this, in which the science fiction elements are absurd on face and clearly just a pretense for getting into the hearts of two lovers growing apart, it's just not something to worry about.
And so: this is the best movie about love since Punch-Drunk Love, of which I was reminded at odd places while watching last night. Charlie Kaufman is now officially one of my heroes, and this is his best work yet - though I say this without seeing Human Nature. For all its genius-on-its-sleeve magic, Adaptation is kind of a jokey movie at times, and invested in its own concept. It's hard to feel like the people are people, if you take my meaning. Being John Malkovich is, if memory serves, a bit of a mood piece, a demonstration of brilliance rather than its fulfillment. And Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which is a fantastic movie, is a fairly conventional film centered around an extraordinary man - a fitting tribute and interrogation, a real testament to Kaufman's humanity. Eternal Sunshine has none of Malkovich's inscrutability and none of Adaptation's self-apology.
The reviewer at Slate said it was the best film he'd seen in a decade. I don't know about that - it has Fight Club and Magnolia to contend with for that title, along with others - but it's an honest and moving film. How in God's name it got made in contemporary Hollywood I'll never know.