“I don’t know what else there is to write about other than being human, or more specifically, being this human.”
Charlie Kaufman is a filmmaker who likes to ask the big questions. His scripts, as well as the features he directs, almost always grapple with some degree of profound moral inquiry. Sometimes it’s escapism, as in “Being John Malkovich,” where a puppeteer leading a drab life yearns to escape into the mind of the tiular actor. Other times, it’s creative stagnancy, as in “Adaptation,” or lost love and tarnished memories, as in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Last year, Kaufman, and co-director Duke Johnson, graced holiday audiences with “Anomalisa,” a beguiling stop-motion oddity about an unhappy man who gives speeches on the benefits customer service, and the woman who helps to lift him out of his depressive funk. A movie rendered in miniature is easy to call minor, but “Anomalisa,” though not a perfect movie by any means, is hard to forget — it’s as dense and packed with ideas as anything we’ve come to expect from the director. It’s exciting to anticipate where he may go next, but it’s hard to deny Kaufman has already given us plenty to dig into.
Kaufman’s movies are often discussed in intellectual terms, as though they were little more than elaborate, bleakly funny head games. Though his movies do admittedly bend and stretch the traditional parameters of narrative as we have come to define it, what’s not talked about nearly enough is how soulful Kaufman can be. For all the wormholes and time travel and dueling narrators in his previous endeavors, Kaufman is an artist who feels very deeply. If his movies were about nothing more than their odd structural conceits, they’d just be exercises: that core of emotional truth is what makes “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” one of the most lacerating movies about a breakup you’ll ever see, or why “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” occasionally shows glimmers of the more mournful film it could have been (Kaufman’s battles with ‘Mind’ director George Clooney are the stuff of Hollywood legend at this point).
A new supercut courtesy of Fandor has spliced together some of the best moments from Kaufman’s work, showcasing a sort of abridged retrospective of the man’s films. The themes that run through all of Kaufman’s work are there: self-absorption, alienation, depression, and finding beauty in the mundane, just to name a few. Indeed, although other directors have adapted his scripts, it’s hard not to think of these aforementioned projects as Charlie Kaufman projects — that’s how distinctive the man’s worldview is. Relive some of your favorite moments from Kaufman’s filmography below.