For Charlie Kaufman’s Birthday

Photograph of Charlie Kaufman by Brigitte Lacombe

The word “genius” is passed around rather generously, isn’t it? At least in English, because its Russian counterpart, geniy, is a term brimming with a sort of throaty awe and is used only in the case of a very small number of writers…Genius still means to me, in my Russian fastidiousness and pride of phrase, a unique, dazzling gift.

Vladimir Nabokov, interview, 1969

Charlie Kaufman is (say it with a sort of throaty awe) a geniy.

Hope Leaves the Theater (2005)

Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman

Music by Carter Burwell

Cast (listed alphabetically):

Hope Davis: Pat Nixon, The Mouse, Esther, Sailor #2, Rose, Miss Alison Finnigan, Traitor, Voice, Magistrate, Becky, Woman by Side of Road, Choir of Angels

Peter Dinklage: Reed, Oscar, Sheldrake, Boy #1, Tragic Monster, Man in Car, The Puppeteer, Sir Isaac Newton, Ben, William of Essex, Sailor #3. Wolf, Jan Wenner

Meryl Streep: Sally, Kelly, Jane, The Empress of Japan, Mrs. Finnigan, Boy #2, Joan of Arc, Daisy, Teresa D’Urseau, Radio Man, Sailor #1, The Killer, Broken Katie

SCENE BREAKDOWN
Scene One: Elevator
Scene Two: Elevator, ten minutes later
Scene Three: Joe’s Living Room
Scene Four: The “Kitchen,” later that day
Scene Five: Offices of Rolling Stone magazine, 1969
Scene Six: Engine room of an Argentinian freighter, 1943
Scene Seven: The Void, Thursday, 6:53 EST
Scene Eight: Elevator, exactly thirty years later
Scene Nine: Joe’s living room, midnight of the same day
Scene Ten: The Void, early morning
Scene Eleven: The eye of a hurricane, Easter Island, now
Scene Twelve: Elevator, one thousand years later
Scene Thirteen: A field of marigolds

See also:

Synecdoche, New York

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Adaptation

Being John Malkovich

Photograph of Charlie Kaufman by Brigitte Lacombe

For Carter Burwell’s Birthday

Photo by Chianan Yen: Carter Burwell, 2001

You might know Carter Burwell’s music but not his name. He wrote music for nearly all of the Coen Brothers’ movies (e.g. Fargo, True Grit), much of the Twilight series (‘Bella’s Lullaby’), and many other films.

Mr. Burwell first hit my radar in 2002, when I purchased the DVDs for Being John Malkovich and The Man Who Wasn’t There on the same day. The menu-loop music for both DVDs was jaw-droppingly beautiful. I checked the credits and found that both pieces were by the same composer. I sought out the soundtrack albums and loved them. Burwell’s soundtracks are now permanent fixtures on my iPhone music player.

He is also a smart essayist and runs an excellent website (with free music downloads and samples) called The Body.

You shall know a man by his works. What we know about Carter Burwell is that he has a lot of soul.

Music by Carter Burwell (four favorites out of many):

Malkovich Shrine and Embarcation, from Being John Malkovich (1999):

I Met Doris Blind, from The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001):

SeDuctIon, from Fur (2006):

Opening, from Moving Gracefully Toward the Exit (2006):

Photo of Carter Burwell (2001) by Chianan Yen

Music for Staring at the Sea

Sunday afternoon I was sitting by the shore at Alki Beach when this music came up on my iPod. The combination of time, place, sight and sound gave me big big chills.

I can’t replicate the moment for you, but here is the music. Now go find your moment.

Friend?
Music by Carter Burwell
Gods and Monsters (1998)

Photo by Hiroshi Sugimoto: Indian Ocean, Bali, 1991