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Charlie Kaufman, Mark Kermode, and when filmmakers and critics clash
Once upon a time, UK critic Mark Kermode reviewed Eternal Sunshine and really liked it. Then he reviewed Synecdoche, New York and liked it less.
When Anomalisa came out and didn't win the Oscar, Kermode and co-host Simon Mayo interviewed Charlie and Duke Johnson on Radio Five Live, kicking things off with a bunch of questions about Pixar films (who did win the Oscar).
The interview was a little awks.
Then Antkind came out, and in this 700 page book there is one gag about Kermode. Kaufman has stated several times that Antkind is, in part, a comment on the usually one-sided relationship artists have with critics.
Kermode has mentioned this gag on Twitter a couple of times in the last few weeks.
Simon Brew at Film Stories has a decent write-up on this whole Kermode-Kaufman thing, which is worth checking out if you are interested in such dramas.
What I didn’t appreciate until I went behind the scenes of that programme earlier this year and asked about it was that words had been spoken just before the show went on air. That in the seconds before the show was going out live across the UK, Kaufman had spoken to Kermode, taking issue with a previous review (presumably for Synecdoche, New York). Then, suddenly, the news bulletin ended and a notoriously frosty interview ensued.
[...] What I’d suggest it goes to is the simmering that feels ever-present under the surface of criticism, the biting of lips on both sides of the critical divide, and the fact that human beings are human beings. In this particular case, Charlie Kaufman has the platform and resources to get his word out, and has chosen to use it. Kermode is in a position to take it, even though he may not want to or feel it fair. But the world is such that on we go, and social media will look elsewhere for its scalps tomorrow. (Source)
I do not mind that there is a Mick Burger on page 9.
Piecing It Together checks out Eternal Sunshine
It's a regular Kaufmanfest over at the Piecing It Together podcast, and WE DON'T MIND ONE BIT. The Kaufman drought has broken, at least for now, so Piecing is making the most of it and so are we.
After tackling Antkind and I'm Thinking of Ending Things, they're winding back the clock for a look at Eternal Sunshine.
On the 7th installment of our Missing Pieces series, Catherine Gonzales joins me to discuss one of the best movies… ever. The Charlie Kaufman written, Michel Gondry directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is our 3rd Charlie Kaufman project in a month, which makes me very happy. Puzzle pieces include Annie Hall, Memento, Punch-Drunk Love and 500 Days Of Summer.
As always, SPOILER ALERT for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and the movies we discuss! (Source)
As always it's a really good listen. Thanks to David for the heads up!
Audio: The Big Picture breaks down "Ending Things" and interviews CK, Reid
I haven't listened to this one yet, but here's a 98-minute podcast breaking down Charlie's latest. The final half hour is an interview with the man himself and Iain Reid.
The acclaimed writer-director Charlie Kaufman has returned with a new film, the disorienting, fascinating adaptation of the 2016 novel 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things.' Sean and Amanda are joined by film critic and Kaufman expert Amy Nicholson to talk about his work and break down the new film (1:14). Then, Sean is joined by Kaufman himself and the author of the book, Iain Reid, for a discussion of bringing this unusual story to the screen (59:53).Hosts: Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbins
Guests: Amy Nicholson, Charlie Kaufman and Iain Reid (Source)
The Charlie Kaufman dictionary
Adam Nayman's video essay over at The Ringer attempts to define the word "Kaufmanesque," by taking us through Charlie's entire cinematic ouevre (even Human Nature! even Confessions!) and picking out eight words that fit the bill. (The first two words are anxiety and puppetry.)
Thanks to Tim!
How do I know I’m not the only conscious being in the universe?
Bit of a shoutout to Charlie over at Scientific American, in an opinion piece with the headline above:
Some of my favorite works of art dwell on the solipsism problem. In I’m thinking of ending things and earlier films, as well as his new novel Antkind, Charlie Kaufman depicts other people as projections of a disturbed protagonist. Kaufman no doubt hopes to help us, and himself, overcome the solipsism problem by venting his anxiety about it, but I find his dramatizations almost too evocative.
[...] We have also invented mythical places in which the solipsism problem vanishes. We transcend our solitude and merge with others into a unified whole. We call these places heaven, nirvana, the Singularity. But solipsism is a cave from which we cannot escape—except, perhaps, by pretending it doesn’t exist. Or, paradoxically, by confronting it, the way Charlie Kaufman does. Knowing we are in the cave may be as close as we can get to escaping it. (Source)
Jay Wadley and the memory of music
Here's another good interview with Jay Wadley--this one via Spin--speaking about his score for I'm Thinking of Ending Things. Spoilery, so beware.
What was that initial meeting like?
It was a great initial conversation that was largely about conceptual elements. At this point, we weren’t sure how much actual post-scoring there was going to be, if any at all. There was definitely going to be this jingle. There was going to be the pastiche rom-com. They were licensing the Oklahoma! tunes. It wouldn’t have worked to use the ballet from Oklahoma! because we would have had to rearrange all the themes and redo the whole thing. So we decided to do it all [as an] original score, the concept being that it needs to be a part of this fabric, and what does the memory of music sound like? Or the misremembering of music?
[We were] playing with some of those concepts in the ballet by making it a piece that sounds like it could be from Debussy, or from Ravel or Stravinsky. But definitely feels like it could be something Jake would have heard at some point in his life, so that when he’s imagining this entire romantic ballet sequence that’s sort of representing this life unlived, what music is he imagining accompanying this thing? It’s all fabricated in his head and part of his imagination. (Source)
This video's included on Spin's site, too:
Iain Reid and Charlie interview each other twice
At Netflix Queue and at Interview, Iain Reid and Charlie interview each other. Both worth checking out!
CK: You said that you felt it was a philosophical book, not a horror book.
IR: Yeah, which is why there’s so much dialogue, especially at the beginning. People talking about the end of the book have sometimes said, “Oh, I figured out the twist halfway through.” In my mind, I’m like, What do you mean, the twist? That’s not how I set out to write it. If the end is surprising to a reader, I like that. But again, this isn’t a psychological thriller with a twist ending. It’s just a book, and it tries to tell a story in a way that’s a little bit more unusual. I feel like the film also does that. It’s not necessarily about the end; it’s about everything that’s happening and the questions that arise.
CK: I wanted to address that concern of the twist ending by not making it a twist ending. Movies are different, in my estimation, than books, in that you’re taking something that can be enigmatic on a page, and you’re making it concrete: Now you’ve got actors and a set, and you’re saying, “This is what it looks like.” (Source)
KAUFMAN: When you think about the book now, do you picture the characters as you pictured them when you were writing it, or as they appear in the movie?
REID: I haven’t re-read it because I always have a hard time re-rereading things that I’ve written after a while. But that’s interesting. I don’t really have a particular image in my head of characters when I’m writing them.
KAUFMAN: You had a physicality. Heights and that sort of thing.
REID: In the book, there really isn’t all that much physical description. For Charlie, and for you, like me, the internal world is more interesting, so I really didn’t have a set vision for any of the characters. What’s in the book is really all I had. I had Jake as being a little bit taller and kind of ganglier, and his girlfriend being a little bit shorter. And then people who read it can come up with their own descriptions. There’s something about Jessie and Jesse together, their chemistry really is amazing. And I think people are really going to appreciate that when they watch it.
KAUFMAN: The reason I asked that question is because when I think about original screenplays I’ve written, people will say, “Are Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet who you thought of when you wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” And the answer is obviously no, because they weren’t cast at that point, but that’s who I picture as Joel and Clementine now. I can’t really even remember what I pictured them like beforehand. If I forced myself, I could go back to it and realize, “Okay, this person was based on this person.” But I don’t picture those people anymore.
REID: I guess the only one for you would have been John Malkovich when you were writing Being John Malkovich.
KAUFMAN: I actually pictured Craig [played by John Cusack in Being John Malkovich] as somebody very small. I imagined someone like myself. (Source)
How many times can they interview each other and keep it fresh? They'll be doing it again in a couple days for Wordfest.
Cinematographer Łukasz Żal on using subtle changes to distinguish reality from memory
Over at Variety, Ending Things DP Łukasz Żal gives good insight into some of the choices made when shooting the film:
Żal sat with Kaufman and production designer Molly Hughes to flesh out the concept of how the characters would see themselves in a memory. “Some would be faded, and others would be colorful,” Żal says. Lighting, filters and colors all played a part. Happier memories are well lit and feature colorful backgrounds, because “when you remember something nice, you think of yourself in the best possible light,” Żal explains. For darker memories, filters were used to reflect emotion. “The image would be contaminated by the emotion,” Żal says.
When the pair arrive at Jake’s parents’ home, the DP has the house lit with cool colors to give it an abandoned look. But the place springs to life as Jake sees his parents.
“He wanted the film to look like a painting,” Żal says of Kaufman’s vision for the farmhouse. The house was lit warmly, using candles to give a softer, gauzier look. “Farmhouses are filled with memories and family history, and we wanted to add those layers here,” says Żal. Even the walls of the home figured into the mix. “The wallpaper looked like it was disappearing in the background, almost like a memory,” he notes. (Source)
More at the link!
Charlie Kaufman's women
Two thematically similar essays: Kayleigh Donaldson's The Women of Charlie Kaufman, at SyFy...
Much has been written about Kaufman over the years. His work easily invites painstakingly detailed dissections and the most outlandish of fan theories (for nothing could be as ludicrous as Kaufman's own ideas). What's given less attention, however, are his heroines. For a writer whose work is heavily defined by his deeply neurotic and often highly unpleasant male protagonists, it's through his female characters where his true intentions shine through. (Source)
... and Sady Doyle's Charlie Kaufman Has No Idea How to Write Women as People:
Kaufman is a capital-G Great Writer, one of the greatest we have working for the screen. No one else could write so many classic movies about the same guy. Yet there is a coldness to his work, and particularly to the way he writes women — who are often literally fantasies, or memories, or projections, or symptoms of a man’s discontent, and rarely full, human protagonists in their own right. The way these women so often turn out to be inexplicable or imaginary might be a dazzling reflection of the postmodern condition, but it might also be a reflection of a culture in which women are rarely accorded full humanity at all. (Source)
Two valid views, both of them well thought out. Both writers raise good points. And I just want to make it clear: Doyle is obviously a fan of CK's work overall.
Video: Collider asks Charlie some new questions
I really like this one. Collider's Steve "Frosty" Weintraub goes out of his way to ask some great questions that Charlie hasn't already answered a hundred times this year.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things is the focus, but they get into other areas as well. If you're curious, Weintraub lists the questions and topics underneath the video description on YouTube. I've pasted them below, too.
• How he ended up making the movie at Netflix.
• What was it like collaborating with Netflix?
• Does he usually listen to the notes given by the studio?
• What TV series would he like to guest write and direct?
• What movie has he seen the most?
• How his work leaves a lot open for the viewer to decide.
• What as his reaction to the footage when he got into the editing room?
• Who does he trust for honest feedback?
• How long was his first cut compared to the finished film?
• What was the last scene he cut out of the film before they picture locked?
• Why they didn’t use Dairy Queen in the movie.
• Has he thought about doing anything more in the world of stop-motion after making Anomalisa?
• If he could get the financing for any project what would he make and why?
• How he’s developing a limited series for HBO that causes stupidity which is based on the novel IQ 83.
• What happened to making Slaughterhouse Five with Guillermo del Toro?
• What it was like filming the driving sequences in I’m Thinking of Ending Things?
• How many takes does he like to do when filming?
• What was he nervous about being able to pull off with the time and budget?