Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(Universal Home Video, 1.4.2005)
Don't think that just because Jim Carrey teams up with the obtuse and sometimes pessimistic creativity of Charlie Kaufman, he doesn't deliver some of the most inspired comic moments of his career. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is directed by past Kaufman compatriot Michel Gondry (Human Nature), Carrey plays multiple incarnations of his character Joel at different ages, from infancy to adulthood, and gives each layer of Kaufman's narrative tapestry a manic, feverish, emotional edge.
True to Kaufman form, Eternal Sunshine rewinds, inverts, and re-mixes standard storytelling formulae, in this case the strictures of romantic comedies about star-crossed lovers who find, lose, and rediscover one another all before the end credits roll. The jostle of the film's structure, which balances a potentially effects-laden conceit with perfectly-wrought emotional intensity, could in lesser hands swerve across science-fiction or farcical territories, even with actors as estimable as Carrey and Winslet doing most of the heavy lifting.
Thankfully, Kaufman's forlorn but optimistic textures are dexterously conceived through the eye of Gondry's omniscient camera, layered upon one another in a montage of images that transcends the sum of their skillfully edited parts, and Gondry invents an innovative mise-en-scene that preys upon Hollywood's commercial impulses but never forgets the emotional backbone of Kaufman's story.
The Collector's Edition DVD expands the single disc version released late last year and provides further insight into the febrile creativity of Kaufman, Gondry and Carrey. While casual fans of the film might opt for the former release, this version was made for completists and finally provides a worthy companion piece to the film itself. As a matter of fact, it's worth purchasing for the "Anatomy of a Scene: Saratoga Avenue" featurette alone.
Evidenced by the banter between Carrey and Gondry, the film's volatile emotional center spilled out onto the production itself, but the end result is nothing short of riveting. Even the deleted scenes -- which expand already existing sequences or reveal background information about Joel and Clementine before, during, and after their breakup -- function purposefully to create a versimilitude that scant few films accomplish.
In addition to interviews and a commentary track by Kaufman and Gondry, the set includes outtakes and deleted scenes, featurettes, a music video for the Polyphonic Spree's "Light & Day," a "Lacuna Infomercial" explaining the process of memory erasure, and a couple of documentaries that explain how Gondry did the majority of the film's special effects in-camera or on-set, rather than with CGI.
Ultimately, Kaufman, Gondry and Carrey have made a film that lays bare the pretty and the ugly of human nature, the nagging imperfections and charming idiosyncrasies, and the peaks and the troughs that make relationships such difficult but ultimately worthwhile work. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may officially rank as modern cinema's most complete and unflinching portrayal of love, be it good, bad, funny or sad, often all at once. In short, it's unforgettable and this DVD will make sure it's burned into your memory forever. -- Todd Gilchrist