Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2.0 stars

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind movie poster

Charlie Kaufman, scriptwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, drills a new tunnel into his favorite fictional locale, the human brain, this time by way of the science-fictional device of an illicit memory-erasure service called Lacuna, Inc. ("Technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage, but it's on a par with a night of heavy drinking.") Both halves of a failed romance avail themselves of the service, first the female half, and then (in distress over his former lover's failure to recognize him) the male, who belatedly changes his mind and begins to struggle against the erasure in midstream. The old theme of cold-science-versus-warm-humanity emerges. And inasmuch as the protagonist is asleep for the operation, the flow of fragmentary memories, riddled with surrealistic dislocations and juxtapositions, takes on aspects of cognitive dreaming as well as psychoanalytic free association. The French origins of director Michel Gondry, who earlier collaborated with Kaufman on Human Nature, prompt us to draw a connection to Alain Resnais quicker than we otherwise might. The latter's explorations of the mind in general and memory in specific are, fittingly enough, far more cerebral (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad, Providence), though he himself was not above making use of a science-fictional device: the haywire time machine in Je T'Aime, Je T'Aime, pinballing its human guinea pig through the lowlights of an unhappy love affair. (The theme of cold-science-versus-warm-humanity emerged there, too.) Gondry, a music-video and TV-advertising veteran, with a common weakness for the wacky and the tacky, has none of the refinement of Resnais, but that's no reason to condemn him out of hand. A popularized, a vulgarized version is preferable to none at all; it might even inspire the odd viewer or two to follow the trail back to the fountainhead. Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood. 2004.

Duncan Shepherd

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