The 44th after ’71: Being John Malkovich

On the original 42 after ’71 list–a list of my 42 favorite movies made since the year of my birth–I  omitted Being John Malkovich. Well, time has passed and the moment has come to add it. (Actually, the moment came some six months ago. What can I say? I’ve had things to do.)

#44Being John Malkovich

I wish a tunnel like the one in this movie actually existed, and that it could lead me into Charlie Kaufman’s head. Not because I’d like to take over his body and have his career (though now that I think of it…), but because I’d love to experience his mind at work. The premise of Being John Malkovich is casually audacious. What would you do if you could find a way to be someone else–specifically, quite famous but not quite superstar actor John Malkovich? How would you use, or abuse, this power?  Putting that power in the hands of a pretentious puppeteer who doesn’t like his wife and who hopes to exploit the Malkovich tunnel to impress a woman who doesn’t like him, is smart. Having the two women have an affair through the medium of John Malkovich is brilliant. Having Charlie Sheen as Malkovich’s skeevy best friend is even more brilliant, and having a bunch of weird old people who hope to use Malkovich as their vessel for immortality is better still. All in all, you end of feeling sorry for Malkovich, who gets just a few brief moments of autonomy in the movie before becoming the instrument of everyone else’s designs and fantasies. Such is the actor’s fate.


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