Who is pulling my strings?
Carbonadam | USA | 10/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While I have seen and enjoyed this film many times I figured with Where the Wild Things Are about to come out I'd give this film a re-look-see and write a proper review for it. BJM is on it's surface satirical take on modern famous types, unknown creative types, and what it is that makes those at both ends of the spectrum tick. Now while the true creative type from any discipline is compelled by unknown forces there are also those amongst them that are, shall we say, compelled by less pure forces. Those being fame and money. Still, even the pure artist needs recognition of some sort. After all, art is just another form of communication. Without anyone to communicate with an artist can go ever inwards and mad, I suspect, if one is not understood by others on some level. Craig Schwartz, is a pure artist who is at the start of the film misunderstood and not communicating, no matter how hard he tries, to those around him. As events unfold his wife leaves him and he is eventually thrust into the head of real life actor John Malkovich. This is where the film departs from what is typical in mainstream movies. Ambiguity, symbolism, and exploration of existential concepts is not what most people go to the films to enjoy decoding, thinking about, or passively watching. Soon sexuality and the male and female body types we are born into are questioned and subsequently broken down. Also challenged is talent, fame and the notion that recognition comes from good art or just any established face in the public eye with some money to spend to explore any whim. Finally the film brings into question our very lives and if in fact we are in control of anything, or if some unseen force controls us. Craig Schwartz is a puppeteer who in fact winds up controlling John Malkovich and using his fame and money to further his personal self indulgent need to be a puppeteer is a never ending tunnel of mirrors like the very universe itself, where particles and matter are seemingly infinite outwards and inwards. This same topic is explored in other films written by Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York being the first that comes to mind with the never ending warehouses and smaller and smaller paintings.
In ending we see a new life born, unaware that it is controlled by hidden forces. Is this each and every one of our experiences? This is food for thought in BJM. The film never fully explains itself and that is why the film is so great. For if everything were explained and summed up then there would be no reason to re-watch the film again and agin, seeing it fresh each time it's explored down the road.
The inclusion of animals and higher primates in the film is symbolic. I suspect it alludes to our evolution, base animal nature and how we so often deny that we are in fact just another animal on this planet, albeit a creative one, apart but the same from all other creatures.
The 1/2 floor represents our subconscious, and also animal side. Much is explored and hashed out in the 1/2 floor of that building. things go in and things go out. Personalities and desires, thoughts, hopes, dreams. The characters want to go back to the portal that is in there. The portal to ones true self.
Comedy, a trait that most likely developed as a result of our higher brain functions, is explored as well. Comedy in this film is approached as absurdity. Existence is a bit absurd and this film takes it head on. Comedy probably developed as a buffer from the complex human brain running itself mad with endless thoughts about the nature of existence. These thoughts are explored and bubble up and out of the subconscious to the surface.
This film is a masterwork by the writer and director. It will be remembered long after the drivel of the day is long forgotten. This is one of the great films of our times."
Imaginative premise gives way to mediocre second half
fra7299 | California, United States | 06/08/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Certainly Being John Malkovich's concept is incomparable to most, if not, all films. It explores the themes of identity--and lack thereof--in every day people, and their inner desires. While the film's concept is highly unique and novel, it isn't enough to make up for the direction the film takes after its initial surprise. The film's second half, in particular, steers away from its own creativity and into mediocrity, with unmemorable characters and a simplistically cynical plot. In the end, this is a film that is watchable at times, but also unappealing and unlikable.
It wasn't the nonsensical aspect of this film that put me off; it was the direction it takes after about thirty minutes or so. Clearly, there is inventiveness at the beginning. John Cusack plays Craig Schwartz, a puppeteer, aimless in life with an unfulfilling marriage and an inability to find a puppeteering job (imagine that). Taking a job at an office, he apparently has found a dimension into the mind of John Malkovich, a portal where a person can go and literally experience John Malkovich's life for fifteen minutes. He and his female coworker concoct a scheme to charge to go into the portal. Craig tells his wife, Lotte, also of this portal, and she experiences a strange euphoric feeling after going through once. John Malkovich gets wind of the portal, and goes to experience it. At times this film has some fun moments: the scene where John Malkovich goes into his "own" portal to see what it is like is rather amusing. He sees a line up of eagerly waiting customers. Craig's first entrance into the portal as John Malkovich is comical. However, rather than continuing on with the eccentric concept of "being John Malkovich", the film's takes a different direction, as the plot's second half veers off into pettiness, with the main characters, in particular Craig's wife, going into the portal with the purpose of fulfilling their sexual desires. Some call this original; I call it selling out.
I know that likable characters don't completely make a movie, but the fact that every character is basically unlikable doesn't help much, either. John Cusack's character is so weak, and seeing him falling all over himself for some office worker gets old. One watches him and wonders what motivations he possibly has. Cameron Diaz' character is also self-centered, caring only for herself and her desires to be with the other female. The female coworker is also cold and grates on your nerves as the film progresses. The only redeeming character is probably John Malkovich himself, who is at least able to be a good sport about making himself the center of the joke.
I guess it is quirky and different, in a cold, spiritless kind of way. I'd have to say that this film is vastly overrated, and not one I'd want to watch again.