Tuesday, May 25

Little Englanders, wets and Atlanticists

More diagnosis of the modern Conservative party. Adrian Wooldridge writes about Little Englanders, wets and Atlanticists in this piece on anti-American Tories.

Tuesday, May 11

Thomas Bernhard

Eric Ormsby, writing in the New Criterion on Austria's controversial Thomas Bernhard, sounds a little like Bernhard himself at times:

While living in Prague I formed the habit of spending the afternoons at the Goethe Institute on the right bank of the Vltava; there, in a palatial nineteenth-century building, I could browse through the entire range of German and Austrian literature and there too, one day, I came across Bernhard’s last novel, aptly entitled Extinction (Auslöschung). From the first elephantine yet nimble sentences I was spellbound. Not long after I began to read Bernhard’s autobiography, arguably his masterpiece, and from the first sentence I knew that I had come across a “kindred spirit.”

Monday, May 10

Lacuna Inc.

Lacuna Inc. is the company which offers to remove your unwanted memories in the current cinema release Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The ingenious and confusing script is by Charlie Kaufman, who first attracted attention with his screenplay for Being John Malkovich.

Much has been written about cult writer Philip K. Dick's influence on commercial cinema ever since Ridley Scott's Blade Runner back in 1982. Several blockbusters, among them Minority Report and Total Recall, have been based on his books since.

Kaufman's work, though attracting a smaller audience so far, seems to share Dick's obsession with dismantling personal identity and trying to put it back together again. (In fact a web search reveals that he once adapted Dick's novel about drug abuse, A Scanner Darkly, though the script was never used.)

Michel Gondry directs Eternal Sunshine with a lot of invention. As a Kaufman collaborator, he now joins Spike Jonze as an former MTV talent whose career must be watched closely. The turns taken by the script are already at the edge of what the viewer can absorb but somehow Gondry pushes things even further.

Despite Gondry's flair, though, it's Kaufman's mind that becomes more intriguing after seeing this film. His way of taking familiar everyday situations and breaking them down into philosophical problems seems very natural to him, but it strikes most viewers as bizarre. Amusing as it is today, Eternal Sunshine may easily become funnier as the years pass and the absurdity of Kaufman's logic soaks in.