Being John Malkovich (1999)

Perhaps the closest a Hollywood movie has ever gotten—and probably will ever get—to the free-associative shotgun spray of Salvador Dali’s and Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, this first film by the team of director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is an ingenious, incredibly entertaining, Rorschach blot of a metacomedy that says a truckload about celebrity, movies, sexual identity, control, and much, much more. The primary metaphoric vehicle is a mysterious, slimy tunnel that leads directly from a small door in an obsolete office building into the consciousness of actor John Malkovich. After fifteen minutes spent in Malkovich’s head, however, tunnel travelers are interdimensionally chucked out onto the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike, but the orgasmic thrill of living inside Malkovich’s skull (and what we see of that experience is, not incidentally, less than thrilling) spurs the characters (including office clerk and formerly unemployed puppeteer John Cusack, his frumpy—yes, frumpy—wife, Cameron Diaz, and sultry business chick Catherine Keener) to repeat the experience and steer Malkovich’s actions into fulfilling their sexual fantasies. Plenty of sequences suggest a consciousness on a chemical ride: a pet chimpanzee flashes back to his own orphanhood in the jungle; Charlie Sheen shows up (as himself), blabbering on about “hot lesbian witches!”; and then there’s the climactic homicidal chase through Malkovich’s tortured subconscious.

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