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I’m Thinking of Ending Things – 2020 Charlie Kaufman
- This is an intimidating film to try to say anything about with one viewing. It is a work of almost infinite creativity (Kaufman’s skills as a writer matched by the visual artist in this effort) and depth. I do intend to revisit it again soon- perhaps throwing in the works of Kaufman’s two previous directorial efforts prior if I can manage
- Upon first viewing, it feels like Kaufman’s greatest triumph behind the camera. Like his work that has proceeded it, it is densely layered, sprawling, and intelligent. Kaufman is clearly a singular artistic voice and genius.
- More referential than a Woody Allen film and Dennis Miller stand-up combined
- There are really four performances—all outstanding—Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons (if the names add to the duality kudos for Kaufman as they are both superb actors as well) in the lead as the couple on a dinner date in the country to visit Plemons’ characters parents (played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis)
- The opening montage is a stunner—voice-over narration (Buckley’s) montage of the rooms these characters would occupy for the next two hours– like Woody’s Interiors. Foreshadowing the color design and wallpaper patterns.
- Has the trappings of a date genre film at first glance- like an awkward date road trip movie with searing wit – then it transforms into an almost elevated horror film– but this is clearly no pure genre film—its closest cousin may be a Linklater Before-series relationship deconstruction film or Bergman’s Wild Strawberries road trip film but of course fully a Charlie Kaufman film (and one that seems to elevate his other works making them parts of a greater whole)— cerebral, bizarre, melancholic and tortured– “the world is larger than the world in our heads”
- It is heavy, morose, pained (“you sigh into the onslaught of inevitable days”) but it isn’t without humor- like Plemons’ character rifling through the laundry list of musicals he knows well
- Kaufman is a superb craftsman – the production color-scheme design is meticulously detailed, and his shot choices are exact. He chooses to shoot the two in isolation even though they are sitting next to each other in the car. “you seem far away”- this is textbook editing and shot choice but it is well executed here. Similar to Chazelle’s shooting Stone and Gosling fighting in La La Land.
- Car ride lasts 20 minutes at least—again it is edited and shot brilliantly—recalls the eerie jump cut editing in Cronenberg’s Crash
- At 44 minutes there is a sublime shot—Kaufman isolates Buckley in a splendid frame. She is shown between the doorway and the wall—a great frame within the frame– with everything and everyone else in in shallow focus. She’s all alone even though she’s in the middle of dinner with three other people at the table
- the following shot is a wide-angle shot of Buckley centered perfectly at the table with the wallpaper in the background—both a beautiful frame and giving pause and noting the strangeness of this encounter
- Again the references fly at you like water through a hose—Kaufman crushes Robert Zemeckis with the little movie within the movie, takes a hatchet to A Beautiful Mind, Oklahoma and others. We fly past a copy of Carpenter’s The Thing (I think an important reference) and we get a legit debate on Pauline Kael’s wildly wrong dissection of Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (complete with Buckley blowing raspberries at Plemons like Gena Rowlands did in the film- haha).
- Winter of our discontent- it is a dark, gloomy, blizzard movie
- Kaufman meditates on aging, loneliness, changing the age of the parents, pushes the characters in and out of time wormholes and morphing and blending the two leads at times. Poking, prodding and questioning the reliability of our narrator—masterfully done through editing.
- Golds and green color palate in the design of the frame throughout
- Shot by Lukasz Zal who worked on Ida and Cold War
- Again, also feels like a horror films in many ways as I said above— the basement, and the house (and characters) uncomfortably off kilter.
- Kaufman has a green strobe light lighting up the car window every once in a while reconfirming the color design
- Ends with a Lynchian surreal weirdness that’s tough to describe —dancing, animated talking pigs, a musical number, purposefully bad makeup and the mockery of the status-quo
- I always give praise to the artist- and rightly so– but it is hard to ignore the freedom Netflix seems to be giving these auteurs
- It is a work that is excruciatingly intimate and specific, yet boldly ambitious in its reach and aim
- A Must-See film – top five of the year quality work – it is no great feat in 2020 but it is leaps and bounds better than anything else I’ve seen from 2020 thus far