Friday, 6 November 2009

Aha Postmodernism

I can't believe I got shot. Isn't that fucked up?

Holy moly Saturday night blogging you can't beat this. I've come back home for some food, warmth and to get my parents to buy me a new pair of shoes but also to do some work on the Postmodernism essay and while I'm here I might as well make use a scanner that doesn't require the equivalent effort of climbing Kilamanjaro wearing nothing but hotpants and a sombrero to get working. Here are some quotes Ive yanked from various reviews of Adapatation, obviously I'm not going to use all of them because most don't fit in with the essay though there are some good quotes in there. I hope they'll help me get into the critical analysis mindset and get the old brain ticking over. There's a lot thats been written about the film, I didn't notice the fan-fiction aspect of Susans relationship to Laroche and when you think about it the entire film is pretty much about one big fan-fiction fuck up of The Orchid Thief. Interestingly as well the third act seems to get a lot of flack. Anyway here are the quotes.

But in other respects "Adaptation" is sort of like the mythical Ourabouros mentioned in the screenplay - the snake that eats its own tail - or like a series of mirrors repeating their images to infinity.

It's too early to predict whether audiences will embrace the intricate webbing of fiction and reality that "Adaptation" offers, or dismiss it as a self-absorbed cinematic plaything.

But it doesn't. In fact, the third-act denouement of "Adaptation" is pretty awful, bringing the main characters into a Florida swamp for a standard-issue chase and a lot of splashing around with a hungry alligator.

The already celebrated meta-comedy Adaptation

Adaptation has so many interwoven strands of reality and fiction that the film itself is like a strange new orchid breed

in the last half-hour, Adaptation settles, without fanfare or ironic overemphasis, into something even more dizzyingly complicated. The movie's strands begin to intertwine, it changes shape, and some strange hybrid of truth, fiction, the avant-garde, and Hollywood begins to bloom.

I've likely been infected by Kaufman's comic self-consciousness, and also by his meta-comic impulse to draw attention to that self-consciousness, and probably also by his meta-meta-comic impulse to draw attention to drawing attention to his self-consciousness

is one of the best movies Hollywood has ever made about itself, an extraordinary meta-narrative that continually questions its own ability to capture human experience, disappointment and uneventful loneliness. It's hilariously funny, but that deliberately ridiculous third act, in which Kaufman delivers all that he promised he wouldn't, suggests something deeply depressing and gives the title its true meaning:

Adaptation zooms around in time, going as far back as the bubbling beginnings of the planet, with zippy little visual essays on Darwin and orchids

Adaptation gets at the way we build erotic scenarios around the authors we read and how we imagine their real lives to be.

The real Kaufman seems to ridicule such formulaic work -- then adheres to it. For his third act, he employs more over-the-top carnage than some Steven Seagal flicks.

"Adaptation" is a movie about its own creation.

Obviously, there are layers here -- layers of story, of truth, of artifice - - and audiences will enjoy peeling them off and wrapping their minds around what's real and what's not.

'I don't want to make it an orchid heist movie, or change the orchids into poppies and make it about drug running." He wants to maintain the integrity of the book. The irony, of which the movie is aware, is that the resulting film (the one we're watching) represents an even greater violation of Orlean's book than anything any studio executive could have contemplated.

more than ever, the word "real" is relative.

"Adaptation" is a movie about writing a movie or, more accurately, a movie about trying to write a movie (an adaptation of Susan Orlean's actual book "The Orchid Thief"), and nearly going crazy in the process. The hero here, in both the fictional and real-life sense, is writer Kaufman, who dramatizes (and fantasizes) his own inability to make a coherent script of "The Orchid Thief" into an ingenious comedy about modern moviemaking, art versus commerce, brotherhood, sexual dysfunction and the need to get a little passion into your life.

Some of "Adaptation" is real; most of it isn't.

Finally art, life and screenplay cliches all merge. Charlie's plight and Donald's triumphs are intercut with teasing scraps of "The Orchid Thief's" story: Susan's growing friendship with Laroche. But writer Kaufman has another weird card up his sleeve. When Charlie and Donald begin tailing Susan and Laroche for research, they discover that their subjects' lives have become exactly the kind of cliche thriller screenplay (with drugs, killings and chases through the swamp) Hollywood would have wanted anyway.

There's more, though. To emphasize Charlie's agony, ''Adaptation'' invents his upbeat twin brother, Donald (Cage, again) who is much better at following Hollywood's guidelines than Charlie himself. The film's screenplay is credited to both Kaufmans, though only Charlie really exists.

Of course, to get there, the movie has to pull itself through a postmodern, self-reflexive swamp. (And a real swamp, too.)

These leaps in time are so varied (centuries, months, fantasies that happen outside time) that a grasp of any true starting place is tough. Most scenes are stamped with datelines, but the structure is so complex that you're not inclined to wonder where the film is so much as how it got there.

This new movie from director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the pair of self-consciously deranged geniuses who brought us "Being John Malkovich," isn't sure it wants to be a movie at all. It might be an essay on the intolerable fakery of movies, or a narrative that is, to get really ponderous on you for a second, always in the process of deconstructing itself. It might just be a spoof of all such pretensions, as well as of the movies themselves. It might be the movie in which Jacques Derrida meets Monty Python

Now, just to be clear about this, Susan Orlean and Charlie Kaufman are real people. And the real Kaufman did indeed attempt to adapt the real Orlean's acclaimed nonfiction book "The Orchid Thief" -- based on her earlier New Yorker article -- into a film. "Adaptation" is in fact the warped, self-lacerating and giddily hilarious fruit of those labors. All clever remarks about the unstable nature of reality aside, however, it's safe to say that nothing like the swamp incident really happened. I also strongly doubt that the real Orlean carried on a steamy extramarital affair with the real John Laroche (played here by Chris Cooper), the orchid-mad redneck philosopher at the heart of her book. Or, for that matter, that the Seminole Indians know how to extract a highly addictive, mind-altering green powder from rare orchids.

So on one level -- and it's probably the main level -- "Adaptation" is just a big goof, poking fun at the deformities the moviemaking process inflicts on real life.

The film's internal chronology, already hopelessly and deliberately muddled, begins to ridicule itself. We get a flashback to "Hollywood, CA: 40 billion and 40 years earlier,

wandering around the apartment (as Donald) announcing, "I really liked 'Dressed to Kill' until the third-act denooeyment."

So "Adaptation" is a highly enjoyable failure, a quandary that can't resolve itself. Even in the entirely fictional movie world of its denooeyment,


tutorphil said...

A great selection, Tom - genuinely looking forward to your essay! Technically, you need to write your essay for the non-initiated, so be sure to create a theoretical micro-climate in which all the terms you're going to use are defined and contextualised; don't presume any prior knowledge on the behalf of your reader and use footnotes to enrich...