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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Being John Malkovich
Being John Malkovich
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 19, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

A wildly twisted little trip through a world all its own, "Being John Malkovich" is a wonderfully realized little fantasy from music video director (and recently, actor) Spike Jonze. The film takes a little bit of time to get used to, but once you get used to the rules of the game, it's a very fun, very strange picture that I liked quite a lot.

John Cusack stars as Craig, a street puppeter who creates odd puppets that no one seems to like terribly much. He's married to Lotte, a pet store owner who finds herself caring for a few problematic animals in her own house. Unable to make much of a living with the puppet gig, Craig finds his way into a strange little job on the 7 1/2th floor of a building, where the ceilings are impressively low. The reason for that building and almost every other little rule is so brilliantly inspired that I was amazed that someone could come up with it.

The film starts off slowly, but you know there's something big, something strange coming up quickly - and it does. At the office, Craig steps through a little door that he finds, and after zipping along, he's suddenly in the mind of actor John Malkovich, experiencing what the actor experiences. 15 minutes later, the person who's enterted the mind of the actor gets dumped by the side of the freeway. Rather than trying to figure it out, Craig's co-worker Maxine(the wonderfully nasty Catherine Keener) suggests that they turn the ride into Malkovich's brain into a business.

As original and surreal as the film starts off, the picture keeps spiraling further into the realm of its own particular brand of madness. Lotte begins to fall in love with Maxine, Craig falls in love with Maxine, Maxine goes out with Malkovich while Craig and Lotte become Malkovich. I was confused, but entertained.

I was also quite impressed with the acting. Malkovich is outstanding playing himself, not getting to cartoony with the performance. Cusack and Diaz dissapear into their roles wonderfully, and Keener is remarkable as Maxine.

I half expected the film to begin to run out of ideas as it went onwards, but it actually only keeps getting better. I don't think there will be a more original, funny or well-written picture for quite some time. "Being John Malkovich" really amazed me, and I think it's one of the best movies I've seen in quite a while.


The DVD

VIDEO: Words to describe the look of "Being John Malkovich" escape me, but I did sort of enjoy its murky, dark look. Colors are very pale and subdued when they do make an appearance in the sort of bland, weird world that these characters inhabit. The image is consistently crisp and clear, although sometimes it seems a little soft. Detail is generally good, and flesh tones remain natural.

There's a little bit of shimmering once or twice, but there is no pixelation and the print used remains in clean condition, with no marks or scratches to be found.

SOUND: Although the majority of "Being John Malkovich" is all dialogue, there are some really creative and cool sequences when people visit the mind of John Malkovich, with thoughts placed all around the viewer, as if they were inside the head of the actor. The occasional touch of score sounds well-recorded and otherwise very good, and dialogue is cler and easily heard. Some really inspired sequences in terms of audio, and generally a very pleasing presentation.

MENUS:: Nicely done menus, with slight animation and a nice design from the logo and other film themed images, as well as the score in the background - there's even a weird song that plays behind the language menu. It's all put together into a subtle, nicely done intro to the movie.

EXTRAS:

7 1/2 Floor Orientation: The "orientation" video for those interested in working on the 7 1/2 floor.

Trailers: The theatrical trailer is included, along with 4 TV Spots for the film.

An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Background Driving: From the perspective of the extra, we get to see exactly what it was like to be a person hired to drive past one of the scenes in their freeway...in their car. The camera follows their thoughts on just what they're supposed to do next, as well as stories from the set. Weird, weird, weird thoughts about the job of "background driver" and the skills involved.

John Malkovich - Dance Of Despair and Disillusionment: Keeping with the theme of weirdness, this is a goofy featurette that shows what would have happened if John Malkovich had quit his acting job and gone forth as a puppeteer. Incredibly funny little featurette that had me laughing greatly.

An Intimate Portrait Of Puppeteering: Interviews with a puppeteer on the art and skill of puppetry, as well as a look behind just how it's all done.

An Interview With Spike Jonze: I'm not really sure what to think about this part of the extras. Only a few minutes, this documentary has someone interviewing director Spike Jonze in his car as he's driving. Not answering many questions, the clip ends a few minutes in, with what looks to be Jonze getting out of the car to throw up on the street.

Also: Cast and crew bios and a gallery of Jonze's on-set photography.

Final Thoughts: Some of the extras are a little strange (especially the interview), but I loved the movie and I'm definitely recommending the DVD.

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