How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
I am Joel Barish.
Or I was while rewatching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I hadn't seen the film in about 8 years and it rushed at me which such full force it felt like the first time again... or at least like the most vivid Déjà Vu ever. The experience is disorienting in its speed (20 minutes in and you're already portal'ed into Being Joel Barrish, without quite realizing it) moving in performance (career best work from Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey and a pitch-perfect supporting cast) and fascinating in its premise, looping structure and mirrored ideas (Charlie Kauffman's ingenious screenplay justly won the Oscar). But it's in the realm of the visuals where Michel Gondry and DP Ellen Kuras bring it all together with imagination, verve and an entirely bold and unusual use of light and focus.
The "Best Shot" task suddenly seemed unthinkable. "Can I choose 'every'?" I ask myself in a whimper, like Joel begging to keep just this one intimate moment with Clementine in bed. What kind of a sadistic game is this series of ours? I wanted to throw my hands up and cry out... or at least type out in blog form:
Do you hear me? I want to call it off!"
For anyone who has ever loved and lost painfully, the premise of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is cruelly precise, both tempting and unthinkable. The most literal representation of that is surely the iconic shot of beautiful bright Clementine pulled from the ice beside Joel into inky blackness, forever out of reach. That and the blurry iconic "Meet me in Montauk" closeup which feels exactly like the irreversible imprint that its meant to be, are the two images that I think of immediately whenever my memories flutter back toward the movie.
Neither have lost their power.
But as a movie that's unfolding before you and not as you remember it, the most powerful shots are those in perpetual motion (see photo above). This is Eternal Sunshine at its most alive and dangerous, as Joel tries to outrun and escape his foolish decision to have Clementine erased from his mind. This image, Joel running through ever-shifting but somehow circular hallways, pulling his beloved along (she is never as fully visible but for that unmistakable tangerine hair) is repeated twice in the movie. It's broken up with a third variation that is horizontal as a spotlight keeps catching them as they run through Clem's bookstore. Kuras' choice of bright spotlights which lend each frame both blinding beauty and empty darkness, feels almost like lucid dreaming and definitely like love gone hopelessly wrong; you're experiencing it, you think you can control it, but it's perpetually slippery, sliding at the edges into a nightmare. Which is not unlike the futile experience of trying to avoid grief or pretending the love wasn't there.
There is no escape from the past. And if there were some soothing ill-advised oblivion to choose instead, gone goes all the beauty with it.
The Collection of 33 Best Shots from participating cinephiles... Or just click around on these blogs and be surprised: The Examiner, I Want to Believe, Manuel Betancourt, Mario Arratia, Lam Chop Chop, Stranger than Most, Victim of the Time, Awards Circuit, Entertainment Junkie, Antagony & Ecstasy, (Home) Film Schooled, We Recyle Movies , Martin Fernando, Amiresque , Film Actually, Ben's Talking Pictures, Coco Hits NY, A Blogwork Orange, Best Shot in the Dark, Cinemunch, Intifada , Cinema Romantico, Dancin' Dan on Film, Sorta That Guy, Film Misery, Encore's World, Three Pounds Lost, The Film's The Thing, Musings and Stuff, Cinema Pop, My New Plaid Pants, and... Yours?
Next Tuesday: L.A. Confidential (1997) starring Noah himself, Russell Crowe