Last month, the Los Angeles Times Magazine published a cover story concerning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The story was written by L.A. Times Book Editor, David L. Ulin, and in it, Mr. Ulin stated his opinion that Charlie Kauman was one of the best writers working today – in any medium.
So far, so good. I agree that Kaufman is one of our finest writers and that he deserves the Times’ attention. However, in the course of the article, Mr. Ulin notes, “Beginning in 1999, he wrote five movies in five years, including Human Nature (2001), which I’ve never seen.”
What’s the matter, Mr. Ulin? You couldn’t find it at Blockbuster?? Or maybe you couldn’t spare the 96 minutes it would’ve taken to actually watch the film? Dear Mr. Ulin – please note – there are other movie rental services besides Blockbuster, and there are some places accessible to anyone with a computer (e.g. Amazon.com) who will sell you DVDs if you can’t find them at the neighborhood video store.
Seems to me that if you’re writing a cover story for a major metropolitan newspaper about a screenwriter who has authored just five released films, you might want to try and see all five of them. Human Nature is particularly important in the Kaufman canon, because of the five Kaufman films released so far, Human Nature is one of only two that are completely original. (The other completely original screenplay is Being John Malkovich.) Of the remaining three Kaufman films, Adaptation was adapted from Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was based on Chuck Barris’ book of the same name; and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was based on an idea by its director, Michel Gondry. Human Nature is also of particular interest to Kaufman afficianados, because it is the only Kaufman film to date that deals directly with the problem of sex. (Eternal Sunshine is about love, a somewhat different matter.)
In short, while seeming to praise an artist, the Times has actually shown contempt for that artist and the medium he works in.