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"For the role of the Phantom we wanted somebody who has a bit of rock and roll sensibility in him. "  -Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer, The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
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Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a puppeteer whom the world shuns, and whose marriage to Lotte (Cameron Diaz) has become rather dull - even the chimp and the dog and the bird and the other animals Lotte the petshop employee brings home fail to lift life above survival levels. Lotte urges him to get a job; he does, in a strange filing company on a 'half way between floors' of a large building, where he meets the enigmatic and lustable but unavailable (to him) Maxine (Catherine Keener) and also discovers a secret door that whisks him inside the brain of famous actor John Malkovich. Things take a bit of a turn for Craig now, and with Maxine's help, he turns the 'portal' to Malkovich into a business. But that's just the start of it.

Have you seen the film? If not, do so immediately. If you have, go and get hold of this DVD. It is a wondrous thing, DVD, enabling us to delve deeper into the psyche of the filmmakers and explore a whole new world - just like the characters in Being John Malkovich, who explore existence through JM's eyes, via the amazing tunnel from floor 7 of the Flimmer Building that leads into his brain. In a special feature on this DVD, we are given a brief history of the amazing floor.

And there's more: much more. "American Arts & Culture presents John Horatio Malkovich - Dance of Despair & Disillusionment" is a tour de farce doco on Malkovich and his new career as a puppeteer. It digs into Malkovich's unstable artistic genius as a manipulator of puppets who in turn manipulate smaller puppets. Malkovich talks about art and truth and lies; pay attention, as his remarks are apposite. Indeed, there is a strange sense of revelation about this doco as it charts Malkovich's rise from the ignominious beginnings on stage with a limp puppet, through to the glittering opening of his triumphant show.

These digressions are a significant part of the DVD menu - and speaking of the menu, here is a DVD menu designed with imagination and flair. Apart from the lovely graphics of a brain and dotted lines that tell you where to go, there is a moving menu complete with an eerie soundtrack to guide you through your language and sound selections.

As a special bonus, there is Spkie Jonze's photo album from the shoot, as well as the usual inclusion of tv and theatrical trailers.

But the coop de grass as far as features go is unquestionably the commentary from Spike Jonze, recorded "under duress" with a warning against broadcasting any of it; so we won't. But we can comment, and it's fair to say Jonze confirms his image as an innovative young man whose creative juices are matched only by his disregard for the norms. This interview takes place in his car immediately after the shoot, giving the piece a sense of motion, progress - and danger. My suggestion is that you rent or buy this DVD - and hope it comes with its own barf bag.
Andrew L. Urban

Review published: 17/8/00

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia


CAST: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich

DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

DVD Distributor: Columbia TriStar

DVD Release: August 8, 2000


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