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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - DVD Review

By Widge - posted 02.15.05 @ 8:12 am
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Charlie Kaufman, based on a story by Pierre Bismuth, Michel Gondry & Charlie Kaufman
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst

Features:

  • Behind the scenes featurette
  • Convos between director Gondry and actor Carrey and between Gondry and actress Winslet
  • Running audio commentary by Gondry and writer Kaufman
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Music video from The Polyphone Spree
  • Lacuna commercial
  • "Inside the Mind of Michel Gondry" featurette
  • Anatomy of a Scene: Saratoga Avenue

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Fans of the film must own.

It seemed like the perfect relationship. Then again, don't they all at first? Otherwise, why would you even get into one? Anyway, introverted, tight-lipped Joel (Carrey) met the wild, outgoing Clementine (Winslet) on a beach in Mantouk one day, and hit it off despite their different natures. Now, time has passed and Clem has decided to move on...with a vengeance. It seems that the good Dr. Mierzwiak (Wilkinson) has come up with a breakthrough procedure that can literally go in and remove memories of people so that you could run into them on the street and never know you ever knew them. Clem has done this. Now Joel decides what's good for the goose, so to speak, so he's signed up for the treatment as well. But nothing's ever that easy, is it?

This is certainly a breath of fresh air after the boring pretension of Adaptation. But it's not even really Kaufman that's on display here. His normally dark-edged look at human nature has a softer side here, as we explore why in the hell any of us ever bother to seek out somebody else. But he's still as whacked out as he ever was in crafting this little puzzle. However, it's Gondry who gets full marks here, for bringing this to life. Apparently, as we learn in the features, Kaufman never really specifies what goes on when memories start to fade. So it was up to Gondry to create the inside of your head as the whole thing is going to pieces. And Jesus, does he ever.

Cars fall from the sky, backgrounds disappear, books lose their titles, and people lose their faces. And while you're watching the film for the first time, it's very easy to come to the conclusion that it's all CGI. Well, here's the thing that I find even more impressive than the story itself: most of the effects are done in camera and using the most mundane means you can think of. When the background becomes vague and indistinct--it's a big sheet of plastic being carried behind the actor. When Carrey is in the shot twice, he's literally running behind the camera as it pans from one to another, changing places. Even more crazed is a sequence that was cut, with a car in a living room and Carrey and Winslet showing up in literally three places at once. The reason Gondry can think like this--and the reason why I think the actors and crew have such trouble understanding what he's talking about (I mean besides his accent)--is because his background is in theatre. So this stuff makes perfect sense if you've spent any time on or backstage. But seeing somebody with the balls to bring technical theatrics to the big screen...man, that's impressive.

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey down the rabbit hole.

Not lost in all of this are the actors. It's refreshing to see Dunst doing some serious work again after being miscast and being stuck as Mary Jane in the Spider-Man flicks. It's also refreshing to see what Carrey can do when he's given the right director. Like Robin Williams, if you don't keep him under control, he'll blow up and ruin everything. But given the appropriate parameters, and damn, the boy can act his ass off. Also a revelation is Kate Winslet, who is selling herself short by appearing in period pieces to the point where that's what she's known for more than anything else. Here, she's foul-mouthed, bright-haired and at times, a real bitch. The two of them make for a great on-screen couple and I've honestly never seen them in better form than they are here.

The two-disc set here does a good job of fleshing out the background of the film. Really, sadly, the commentary is the low point of what's here. Gondry is admittedly hard to understand in just audio, and between him and Kaufman it's either the guy that's incomprehensible or the guy who doesn't talk much. A real pity. Gondry is much easier to understand when you can actually see his mouth moving, so the convos with both Winslet and Carrey are very amusing, especially hearing both actors ape the accent in question. The one with Winslet is hilarious, as she discovers the real reason behind Gondry allowing the actors to play out their ideas as takes.

The Polyphonic Spree's singing house from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Kids, don't do drugs.

The deleted scenes actually have some good stuff in them, which is odd for deleted scenes. Normally, it's pretty apparent from jump that you've got superfluous stuff that was just weighing down the film, but there's especially a very dark turn for Dunst's character's arc which on one hand was probably better left out, but on the other hand would have made things make even more sense. Music videos are a thing we dread around here, but the Polyphonic Spree one included is so manic, that we just had to smile. Mouths singing the words to the song are imposed over the main characters during scenes from the film...even houses and other inanimate objects start singing. Oh, the drugs, the drugs.

The Lacuna commercial is exactly what it purports to be: Wilkinson pitching for his breakthrough technology. It's rather funny. The "Inside the Mind of Michael Gondry" featurette at first gave us some trepidation because it looked like it was going to be a bunch of folks blowing smoke up Gondry's skirts for a long time, but instead they break down and talk about what it was like to work with the guy while he was coming up with these crazy in-camera stunts to pull. They take you through some of them, and those portions are some of the best stuff on these discs.

Kate Winslet and Michel Gondry from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Kate Winslet and Michel Gondry have a chat.

The Anatomy of a Scene bit does not appear to be a legit episode of the show, but it still takes you through a scene in which Carrey is running up and down a street only to find himself always winding up at his car and where he started. Again, it seems like they just brought in another car but nooooo, that would be cheating. The way they pulled this scene off is insane and amazing to watch.

The film for me was good, but not amazing. It gets extra points for Gondry's presentation but at the end, I wasn't convinced why, like I said, we should bother leaving our apartments. But maybe that's just me. The bonus features, however, make this a definite purchase for any fan of the film.

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Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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