Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eternal Night of the Blogless Mind

Well yes, I have finally managed to blog again! Let's hope I can still 'Recall' my opinions and replicate them here for you. Following on from my blog entry about 'experimental film', and the fact that despite its appearance, it still heavily relies on a set pattern of elements and common form, I now extend this discussion by analysing Alternatives to the 'Classical Hollywood Narrative'.

In the 'Story' module of the Screen Culture course that I am undertaking at AFTRS, Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was a prime source of defining Alternatives to the Classical Hollywood Narrative. Gondry's take on Charlie Kaufman's script is exactly that, a piece of multiform narrative that seems completely detached from the Classical Hollywood and yet upon closer inspection matches the Classical almost to a tee.

Kaufman's films deal with reluctant protagonists, who face issues with identity and there own reality. Characters who are frustrated in their profession or personal lives. The characters are possibly more grounded in reality than the Classical Hollywood, but still go on similar arcs and face common obstacles to achieve character progression. The worlds are fictional but resemble the world we all know, with slight elements of fantasy added by Kaufman to cater for our imaginations.

Kaufman learns everything about scriptwriting that there is to know, to then 'unlearn' it, as he deconstructs the common form. This is clearly portrayed in a literal sense to much hilarity in "Adaptation", when Kaufman seeks out the Story Seminar King, Robert McKee.

While 'Charlie Kaufman' in the film is critical of the classical, his fictional brother 'Donald' proceeds to use the knowledge obtained from McKee's seminars to write and sell a successful script. Thus Kaufman criticises but at the same time realises the appeal of common Hollywood story techniques. Furthermore, and rather cynically, Kaufman concludes "Adaptation" with car crashes, gunshots, violence, sex and character voice-over, all of which contrast with his anti-McKee view point.

Kaufman may attract innovative and experimental directors to transform his written word to the silver screen, namely the music video and short film experts Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine", "Human Nature") and Spike Jonze ("Adaptation", "Being John Malkovich"). But I think upon analysing the Auteur that is Kaufman, we find elements that define his 'Classical-ness.' Rather intriguingly, McKee objected to the 'Auteur Theory' in the Director sense, though here I wish to define my belief that auteur can relate to a Writer, Cinematographer or any other Artist with a distinct vision.

Even Gondry and Jonze themselves, both known for their creativity and unique vision, ground their stories in a common Hollywood framework. See Gondry's gorgeous short film "La Lettre" or Jonze's quirky robot short "I'm Here". The ever present 'Boy longs for Girl' plot, evident in "Eternal Sunshine," "Human Nature", "Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation", "Synecdoche New York", "I'm Here" and "La Lettre", a successful Classical structure used throughout the ages, and prominently by Kaufman.

His films deal with real people in fictional situations. What film doesn't ? Kaufman just takes the term 'real' in the literal sense. In "Adaptation" we see Kaufman write himself into the script, both in real life and in the film itself. In somewhat of an Eternal Meta Loop, Kaufman enters into his own mind, something which 'John Malkovich' also experienced in "Being John Malkovich". A constant throughout Kaufman's work is this multi-narrative, multiple reality construct, that of which is purely a mask for stories that fit the Classical.

Now while I have previously expressed my love for meta-fiction and truly admire Kaufman as an auteur, I feel his 'fold-in-on-itself' finale's come together to varying degrees of success across his career. Steve Prokopy, 'Capone' from AICN, listed "Adaptation" as his favourite film of the decade, even citing the fact that upon first viewing the third act didn't quite work for him, but upon repeated viewings it is that specific act that brings him back. Unfortunately for me I haven't watched it for a second time.

Quote: "I don't know what the hell a third act is" - Charlie Kaufman.
Kaufman's films are about Human nature. They are about the longing of Being someone else. They are about the Eternal struggle we face to express ourselves. They are about the process of filmmaking itself and the Adaptation of words to images. They are the Confessions of Kaufman's thoughts. Their meaning and Kaufman's obsessions are expressed plain and simply in the title. The definition of Synecdoche is 'a container which is used to refer to its contents'.

Now, in true Kaufman fashion, this blog post itself will embrace meta in all its glory, as it 'folds-in-on-itself'. As a reflection of my own struggles to write this blog post, please see below our short homage to Gondry's work, in the 'Eternal Night of the Blogless Mind'. Enjoy!

An extract of a young man's sleepless night.

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