Tag Archives: 1999

LIST CANDIDATE: CODEX ATANICUS (1995/1996/1999)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Carlos Atanes

FEATURING: Carlos Atanes, Arantxa Peña, Diana de Guzman, Antonio Vladimir Fuenzalida, Manuel Solas, Scott Fitzpatrick

PLOT:  Three short films: a man seeks to collect a debt in a bar with strong S&M overtones;

Still from Codex Atanicus (2007)
the director struggles to complete the film we’re watching while a fawning actress tries to keep him from hanging himself in despair; and a man returns to Spain from the U.S., only to find himself trapped in an orgy/melee on a staircase.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: It’s weirdness is unquestionable; in these perverse short films, Carlos Atanes illustrates a profound understanding of the theory of surrealism—including its ability to piss off not only the average audience member, but the average critic as well.  But, although the various casts and crews appear enthusiastic, the technical constraints of low-budget filmmaking hold these three pieces back from cinematic magnificence.  It’s probably a matter of individual taste as to whether the rough edges should rule Codex off of the List of the Best Weird Movies Ever Made, or whether the unpolished underground grit adds a charm that works in the compilation’s favor.

COMMENTS:  Though born in Paris, Surrealist cinema was conceived in Spain, the love-child of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.  If either patriarch had lived to see the mirror succubi, the crab-armed women and the staircase orgies of Codex Atanicus, they’d be proud to claim Carlos Atanes as their offspring.  Today, when pure surrealism has been almost abandoned in movies, it’s refreshing to see someone who remains dedicated to probing the mysterious subconscious and carrying on the tradition of Continental Surrealism, despite lack of funding and public indifference.  The three films that comprise Codex Atanicus showa a passion for the irrational and a knack for nailing down the way dream concepts follow their own logic, morphing into new entities and images. Like his spiritual grandfather Dalí, Atanes is unabashedly egotistical to the point of self-parody, coining the adjective “Atanic” to describe his own movies; he’s also unafraid to tap into his Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: CODEX ATANICUS (1995/1996/1999)

64. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999)

“I don’t think my characters are a joke. I take them seriously. And no matter how outlandish or weird their situation, their situation is real and a little tragic. I think that’s what gives people something to hang onto as they watch the film. We had to find a way to make everything play on a very naturalistic level, so it didn’t just turn into wackiness.”–Charlie Kaufman on Being John Malkovich (Salon interview)

“I’m sure Being John Malkovich would be regarded as a work of genius on whatever planet it was written.”–possibly apocryphal comment from a movie studio rejection letter

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Spike Jonze

FEATURING: , Catherine Keener, Cameron Diaz,

PLOT: Craig Schwartz is an unemployed puppeteer who performs a marionette version of “Abelard and Heloise” on street corners for passersby.  His wife Lotte convinces him to get a job, and he winds up working as a file clerk on floor seven and a half of a Manhattan office building, where he falls for sultry and scheming coworker Maxine.  When he discovers a portal hidden behind a file cabinet that leads into the mind of John Malkovich, Maxine devises a plan to sell tickets to “be” the title actor, but things become extremely complicated when a confused love quadrangle develops between Craig, his wife, Maxine, and Malkovich…

Still from Being John Malkovich (1999)

BACKGROUND:

  • The feature film debut for both director Spike Jonze and sreenwriter Charlie Kaufman (who would work together again on Adaptation).
  • In Being John Malkovich John Cusak re-enacts the story of Abelard and Heloise with puppets; the title Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is taken from Alexander Pope’s poem on the same subject, “Eloisa to Abelard.”
  • John Malkovich reportedly liked the script, but didn’t want to star in it and requested the filmmakers cast another actor as the celebrity who has a portal into his head; eventually he relented and agreed to appear in the film.
  • The film was nominated for three Oscars: Keener for Best Supporting Actress, Jonze for Best Director and Kaufman for Best Original Screenplay.  As is usually the case with uncomfortably weird films, it won nothing.
  • The film was originally produced by PolyGram, who were unhappy with the dailies they were getting from Jonze and threatened to shut production down; however, before they could make good on the threat the company was bought out by Universal, and Jonze was able to complete the movie in the ensuing confusion.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The recursive (and hilariously illogical) result of John Malkovich daring to enter the portal that leads inside John Malkovich’s head.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make a movie about a secret portal that allows anyone who crawls through it to see the world through actor John Malkovich’s eyes for fifteen minutes before being spat out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike and not end up with a weird result.  The inhabitants of Being John Malkovich, like the denizens of a dream, don’t recognize the secret portals leading into others minds, the half-floor work spaces designed for little people, and the chimps with elaborate back stories as being at all unusual. Their matter-of-fact attitudes only throw the absurdity into stark relief.


Original trailer for Being John Malkovich

COMMENTS: Synecdoche, New York may be Charlie Kaufman‘s weirdest script, Eternal Continue reading 64. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999)

SHORT: THE THREATENED ONE (1999)

threehalfstar

DIRECTED BY:  Signe Baumane

PLOT: An impressionistic interpretation of a Jorge Luis Borges poem featurning a bunny rabbit, a fox, a man and a woman.

The Threatened One: Rated PG-13 for cartoon bosoms and symbolic sex


WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  The dreamlike imagery, especially the flower that ejaculates flowers.

COMMENTS:  Baumane worked with Bill Plympton (who gets a thank you shout in The Threatened One‘s credits) on I Married a Strange Person! The two animators seem to be kindred spirits: they share a “squiggly” style of animation, where even the still frames move and breathe, as well as an absurd sense of visual humor.  The Threatened One adopts a drawing style reminiscent of a children’s book (only with a sea of blood and topless scenes) to illustrate Borge’s bittersweet poem about the consuming power of love.  Love is depicted as a predator, a toothy fox, but having your fleshed ripped by it’s fangs doesn’t seem like such a horrible fate in the end. The short is witty and whimsical, and David Rovin’s music punctuates the atmosphere perfectly. The only slight complaint is that the narrator’s reading, while competent, isn’t as inspired as the rest of the production.

The Threatened One is available on the collection Ten Animated Films by Signe Baumane. More information can be found on Signe Baumane’s website.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“For Borges and Baumane, love triggers the death of the individual.”-Chris Robinson, Unsung Heroes of Animation