Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
22nd September 2004
Joel Barish is a rather reserved and boring person who has recently split up with his girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski, a woman so kooky and completely opposite in personality to Joel that she's finally had enough. Distraught at the loss of his girlfriend he decides to visit her in the vain hope of sorting things about between them. But when she doesn't recognise him, and refuses to accept that they were once a couple, he suspects that he's been given the ultimate cold shoulder treatment. However, the truth behind Clem's apparent attitude towards him is far more disturbing when a friend shows him a card from Lacuna Inc. informing him that he's been erased from her memory and shouldn't try to contact her.
Devastated by this revelation he decides there's only one thing for it and he contacts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, to have Clementine removed from his own memory. So after gathering up all of his personal effects from his relationship with Clem, Dr. Mierzwiak begins the memory erasing procedure. But as Joel's memories progressively disappear, he begins to rediscover his love for Clementine and from deep within the recesses of his brain Joel attempts to escape the procedure. As Dr Mierzwiak and his crew chase Joel through his subconscious and the maze of his memories, it's clear that Joel just can't get Clementine out of his head. However, matters aren't helped when one of Dr. Mierzwiak assistants steals Joel's personal effects and starts using them to woo Clem.
The picture is bright and reasonably colourful with a high level of detail throughout. However, judging the merits of a film based on its colour reproduction is very hard to do in a film such as this. This is because most of the scenes are deliberately dark and contain only drab and understated colours whilst many of the scenes were filmed using hand held cameras and quick panning techniques. It could have all ended up being one big mess, but to its credit, the picture remains sharp throughout with no real problems with either grain or pixelisation. There are a few scenes where the colour is much richer and more prominent, usually during trips through Joel's happier memories, and even then the picture manages to remain clean and well defined.
When a demanding film such as Pitch Black lacks a DTS soundtrack, it is a little galling to find the inclusion of 768Kbps DTS and Dolby Digital 448Kbps 5.1 soundtracks on a film which doesn't really benefit from the presence of the DTS track. Still, there's no point in grumbling about it now and we should be thankful that the various distributors are recognising that there is more than one sound format out there in region two land. However, there's always that nagging feeling that the addition of a DTS soundtrack sometimes makes up for a lack of value in the extras. Let's just hope that is not the case here.
Sound wise there is very little to separate the two formats and with the film being mainly dialogue based most of the attention is directed to the front channels. Fortunately, the surround channels aren't neglected and they are used to good effect by the various ambient effects whilst the front stereo channels offers some good separation and direction. Again, the DTS soundtrack offers the slightly better separation, but both soundtracks are involving enough without being too overpowering. It's not most challenging of soundtracks for a surround system to process, but at least it shows that you don't always need room shaking effects to produce effective soundtracks.
If there is ever an advertisement for the quality of the extras on a DVD then you can always look at the menu system. But unfortunately for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, things get off to a very bad start with an appallingly basic static and silent menu system which harks back to the bad old days of barren region two releases. But never judge a book by its cover, as this disc is equipped with a good selection of extras.
The main extra on the disc is the commentary with director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman. Although somewhat repeated in the featurettes, director Michel Gondry explains how he managed to create some superb effects with the minimum amount of CGI by relying on optical illusions and quick wardrobe changes. And very effective they are to! It's also one of those few commentaries which allows you to watch the film more than once. First of all watch the film without the audio commentary and then repeat with the commentary track enabled. By doing so both commentators will point out subtle bits of detail you'll most likely have missed first time around.
Whilst the audio commentary is first-rate, the highlight of the disc for me has to be the Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Featurette. Whilst these sort of featurettes usually end up being pat on the back exercises where the cast simply praise the director whilst the director praises the cast, this featurette is remarkably interesting (although most of the back slapping here is reserved for Charlie Kaufman). It has the usual teaser effect, with clips from the film giving a subtle hint of the storyline, but most of all, it provides some extremely interesting facts about the simple shooting techniques used by director Michel Gondry, and all without fancy green screen technology too.
The Conversation with Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry featurette is informative and well produced with some good behind the scenes footage of Carrey goofing around in the manner you'd expect. There's also some interesting hints of the usual actor/director friction which is bound to occur during filming (or is it Carrey being his usual funny self?) whilst the explanation of how they filmed the kitchen scenes by using simple perspective shots is extremely interesting (I'd just assumed they'd built a very large set!).
The disc also contains four Deleted Scenes running to a total of seven minutes. However, these scenes cannot be individually selected from the menu, with only the Next and Previous buttons moving between them, nor is there an audio or textual commentary to explain why they were removed from the film. Mind you, I suspect they were simply removed for pacing and timing purposes.
Next up is the The Polyphonic Spree 'Light & Day' music video. It 's a typically American piece of music from a band I've never heard of, but at least the video is interesting enough. Although looking completely obvious, with Jim Carrey looking particularly weird, the video is made up of various film clips with the mouths of the band members superimposed over the mouths of the cast or any other object to hand. Things are rounded off with a spoof advert for the memory removing procedure as performed by Dr. Howard Mierzwiak and Lacuna Inc.
If you ever saw Being John Malkovich then it may come as no surprise to you that the writer behind that film, Charlie Kaufman, is back to his old tricks with another trip into the mind. One thing is for sure, this man is obsessed with the goings on in the mind and the more bizarre and surreal the trip, the better the results for both the viewer and the performances from the actors. I'm sure Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with this guy and would have even paid Charlie Kaufman to see him!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will appeal to a more female audience and as a result it is sure to do well in the retail market place. But what is all the more remarkable with this film, and which will possibly help broaden its appeal, is the big name cast of Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood. However, it is the remarkable performance of Jim Carrey that stands out from the crowd.
Most people still associate Jim Carrey with his gurning facial expressions and zany comedy films such as The Mask and Ace Ventura Pet Detective, but this guy can really act. This has already been proved with sparkling performances in the criminally underrated The Cable Guy and the acclaimed The Truman Show. Whilst Eternal Sunshine may not have captured the hearts and minds of everyone who saw it, it is one of those out of the ordinary films which may just attract the attention of a certain gold statue giving organisation. Let's just hope that Jim Carrey finally gets the recognition he deserves.
If you're a fan of Jim Carrey then you'll probably enjoy this film. However, if you're expecting him to be goofing about and doing stupid impressions then you'd better look elsewhere. As for the casual viewer, if you don't fancy buying this title then you should certainly consider this one for rental.
- Audio Commentary with Director Michel Gondry and Writer Charlie Kaufman
- A Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Feature
- A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry
- Deleted Scenes
- The Polyphonic Spree 'Light and Day' Music Video
- Lacuna Inc. Advertisement