A Second Helping of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry)
Never did write this up the first time I caught it -- probably because I saw The Passion of the Christ immediately afterwards and was temporarily distracted -- but that works out. Now it's morphed into the first Official Masterpiece™ I've seen in -- gosh! -- two years and, rather than wonder incoherently why it didn't fully hit me the first time around, I can drool pathetically over it to my heart's content. Unless heart-satisfyingly pathetic drooling doesn't interest you. Who let you in here anyway?
Alas, said fluid-dispensing won't be happening, at least not today. Reasons: a) I probably need to shift through my thoughts a little more, as it's such a visceral experience on both an intellectual and emotional level; and b) some people have told me they vehemently don't like spoilers. While I could always throw on a big sign (i.e., SPOILER ALERT, BUD!), I figure a) is still getting in the way. I'll come back to it later.
Which means this: this blog will briefly become a blog. Just for a second. So, in the spirit of those quasi-soundtracks released to eat up a couple extra bucks for movies without much sell-able tunes, here are Some Thoughts Inspired by the Motion Picture Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Three-and-a-half years ago, I had this (admittedly too ambitious) idea for my senior thesis film in school. Heavily, if not libelously, inspired by Richard Lester movies, it would have a character still moping about his relationship-implosion a year or two after the fact (as, great shock, I had also been moping about my relationship-implosion two years after the fact). Lucky for him, he discovers that his place of work, hoping to increase professionalism, has devised an operation that gives people confidence. (Aside: I was 21.) Now stripped of insecurities and painful memories, he would either forget his ex -- who he's just run into, natch -- or, with his newly-found smooth moves, get her back; never did figure that one out. In fact, I couldn't figure out anywhere to take it, much less in the context of a $2K-financed 20-minute 16mm film. After much distractions and sidetracks into helping out on other people's projects, all that came out of it was a minute-long trailer, shot to get me out of school with a passing grade. Which worked.
Much to my surprise -- or, really, not, since the idea was inspired by the high-concept clevery of his scripts -- it was announced that Charlie Kaufman had come up with the following idea: hoping to get over his just busted-open relationship, a scruffy moper finds a corporation that can erase unwanted memories, like, say, the entire presence of his ex in his life. (She too has had the operation which spurs him on.)
Coincidence? Sure. You don't think I'm comparing myself to Charlie Kaufman, do you?
Predictably, Kaufman pulled off what I could not, and not just in the plotting department. (Oh, had I this guy's imagination. He's really a bastard when you get down to it.) Obviously there's a pointed statement about our society's increasing penchant for quick-fix solutions here. But rather than dwell on that bitching, the film's focus is minute, personal -- he has, in fact, gotten right to the heart of busted-up relationships. And, in a feat that should silence his nay-sayers, not entirely belittled his sadsack self-pitying protagonist.
It's also gotten me into the unforunate and disgusting position where I'm now flashing back to past relationships, both actual and once-potential. Bear with me here. Back gods knows when, I had made a constituted decision to ignore them and move on. The therapeutic impact of Sunshine is that I realize I should actually skip the former. Without pulling them back into my self-contained mess (I'm assuming, I think rightly, that they'd like that), I should move on with the knowledge that I've felt those emotional highs and nadirs -- I've known what it's like when Jim Carrey feels a shared solipsistic moment when laying on a river of ice with Kate Winslet, and I've been there during one of the many petty, all-too-knowing squabbles those two have early on in the movie. (The movie goes backwards, incidentally.) It's not only that I should be glad that I've been there at all. It's that, rather than run when things look to be getting quite atrocious (or for that matter, quite wonderful), I should seek them out and learn to grow from them. What I'm trying to say here: don't be a cynic about relationships. Be a grumpy optimist. Or is it "knowing optimism"?
Okay. Let's not let that happen again, shall we?