Sunday, September 06, 2009


Just read the already much linked-to NYT profile of Spike Jonze in which the director's struggles to get Where The Wild Things Are made are detailed. What strikes me about Jonze (besides the fact that he comes off as refreshingly unpretentious and maybe a little boring) is that he has forged a career as a director with none of the film school presuppositions about structure, storytelling, genre, or film history weighing down his imagination. I also like his aversion to creating "moments," those scenes we can all see coming when the music swells and everyone goes into slow motion for a moment. (See the two car crashes in Adaptation for an example of how Jones prefers not to wring emotions from his audiences)

Jonze’s attitude, much more than the ability to spin an enthralling tale, is at the heart of who he is and why he matters to people. His music videos don’t tell stories; they capture a feeling. “Jackass” is probably the most successful plotless movie in American film history. The narratives in “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich” were formally groundbreaking, to be sure, but in both cases it was mostly Charlie Kaufman who supplied them. What Jonze contributed to those films — and what earned him most of the acclaim he received for them — was an attitude, a feel: a deadpan sense of humor, a do-it-yourself production style, an eye for naturalistic detail in everything from the set design to the performances. In nearly all of his works (as in the Torrance of his youth) the realistic and the banal merge with the fantastic and the extreme. To borrow a phrase that Sendak once used to describe his best-known creation, Max, Jonze inhabits a world in which one can “skip from fantasy to reality in the conviction that both exist.”

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