You know… Being John Malkovich is quite literally one of the best, most unique films I have ever seen. When I first saw it, I was transfixed, in awe and stunned. Charlie Kaufman made such a brilliant film, and I watch it all the time to this day.
I didn’t love Adaptation, the subject of this weeks Cult Classic Corner, quite so much, however both are brilliant in their own right.
Jack was fortunate enough to meet Charlie Kaufman and I’m really jealous actually. He’s on my short list of people to meet and I hope to see him out and about one day!
Check out Jack’s encounter in this weeks Cult Classic Corner below!
Metafiction is arguably one of the most brilliant, bold writing techniques ever created by mankind. The idea of creating a composition in a self-conscious manner might offend some people, but personally I adore the concept, especially when used in film (metafilm). Filmmakers such as Michael Powell, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Federico Fellini revolutionized the idea of metafilm and brought the concept mainstream. Later generations of filmmakers such as David Lynch, Wes Craven, Michael Winterbottom, Lars von Trier and Spike Jonze, pushed the limits by creating instant cult classic cinema.
Whether you understand his films or absolutely adore him, Charlie Kaufman certainly knows how to inspire, infuriate and ignite discussion with his films. Bursting onto the scene with his critically acclaimed script, “Being John Malkovich,” Kaufman garnered countless writing awards and established several successful relationships with filmmakers, most notably Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. However, it was his third screenplay, “Adaptation” that truly blew my mind away, which reunited him with director Spike Jonze.
“Adaptation” tells the fictionalized story of Charlie Kaufman’s (Nicolas Cage) struggles to adapt Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) non-fiction book “The Orchid Thief.” No matter what he does, Charlie can’t shake his writer’s block and becomes deeply depressed. Charlie’s depression worsens when his twin brother Donald (also played by Cage) moves into his house and film executive, Valerie Thomas (Tilda Swinton), continues inquiring about his progress. Soon Donald, an inexperienced writer, starts giving Charlie writing advice after attending a writing seminar with Robert McKee (Brian Cox) and begins a relationship with an attractive makeup artist Caroline Cunningham (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Everything is going great for Donald, but Charlie’s misery spirals out of control almost to the brink of insanity. Soon things take a dramatic and interesting turn, but Charlie doesn’t know what to make of his newfound inspiration.
The film is interwoven with numerous fictional events concerning the principle characters: Charlie and Donald Kaufman, Orlean, and honriculturalist John Laroche (Chris Cooper). Although real events such as filming “Being John Malkovich” (Catherine Keener, John Cusack and John Malkovich make cameos) and Laroche’s relationships with Seminole Indians are portrayed, the film blurs the lines of reality and fantasy leaving the viewer to decipher what’s the real truth behind “Adaptation.” Yes, this is one of those entertaining “thinking” films.
Even after a decade, “Adaptation” still persists as a riveting, remarkable modern day masterpiece perfectly crafted by Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman. Streep, Cage and Cooper’s performances are unbelievable, especially Cage’s dual roles as Charlie and Donald. Most people remember this film winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), but very few realize “Adaptation” is the only film to ever receive a nomination for a truly fictitious person (Donald Kaufman), who was nominated with his “brother” Charlie Kaufman for Best Original Screenplay.
Almost five years ago I got to meet my writing idol Charlie Kaufman. Charlie was promoting his directorial debut “Synecdoche, New York” when I met him after a Q&A at the Arclight Hollywood. My friends and I managed to obtain front row seats to the screening and were blown away by the film. It’s a postmodern drama LAYERED with symbolism and easily one of the most brilliant films of the past decade. Needless to say, my friends and I argued long after the film discussing what everything meant, but I digress. Kaufman’s presence and vocabulary astounded me during the Q &A, one I believe to be the most well-articulated and inspiring I have ever had the pleasure of attending.
Afterwards I approached Mr. Kaufman as he was leaving for an autograph, which at first he seemed reluctant to do. When he grabbed my Sharpie and asked for my name I enthusiastically responded while he personalized my DVD of “Adaptation.”
Shortly thereafter he quickly left as a swarm of fans approached the 5’3” writer. None of my friends managed to “meet him” and as far as I know I was the only one who left the screening with his autograph. Arguably this is my favorite autograph that I have ever received and is one of my most cherished possessions. Since then I have never met another autograph collector or dealer who has obtained Charlie Kaufman’s autograph. Hopefully one day I might have another chance to meet my favorite writer, but for now I’m completely content. Until the next time, happy autograph hunting!
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