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.
One of the handful of times that Steven Spielberg’s patented overmanipulations and blue-tinted “sense of wonder” doesn’t curdle in our bellies, this George Lucas–inspired yarn is blessedly free of UFOs and dinosaurs, and is set, rather rowdily, in a 1930s pulp-serial world in which the instantly iconic adventurer/archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fights Nazis for the sake of Biblical artifacts. Good-natured and distracting without being patronizing.
Like you, James Stewart is laid up—with an absurdly phallic leg cast—and so, bored, he spies on the movie-like dramas unrolling in his neighbors’ apartment windows, until one of them seems to become a murder mystery (viewed, as they usually are, from a safe, dark distance). One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most valuable essays on discomfiture and audience implication. It’s not a celebration of healing per se, but being helpless has never been so riveting.
The second of the Marx Brothers’ films (after 1929’s
), this dusty, sarcastically musical vaudeville farce involves a sham “explorer” (Groucho), a society party thrown in his honor, a stolen painting, a pair of suspicious musicians (Chico and Harpo), and so on. The bros’ vim could not be contained even by the primitive early-talkie technology.