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Date: 21 Jun 2000
I'd give it an A-.
People watch this movie looking for different things: some want bizarre, some want comedy. I saw it in theatres under the pretense that it was hilarious. I liked it alot, but not the same way others apparently did.
This is because I felt that it wasn't a comedy, really. I would place it next to 'Brazil' as the Most Misconstrued-By-Its-Distributor Movie of the Year. 1998's choice, incidentally, was Life is Beautiful.
To get back to the point, Being John Malkovich is a confusing film. The script tells us to laugh, but the cinematography tells us not to.
Notice the beginning. The lighting is dark. The sets are all bizarrely cramped (Schwartz's apartment, his workplace, cloudy when outside). Even when he goes through the Malkovich portal, the scene is limited to a little circle. This formula changes when Schwartz exerts complete control over the Malkovich body. Now, the condos are big, the jokes are funny, and the audience is relieved that the whole closed-quarters motif is over. However, at films end, the view is more cramped than it ever was.
Being John Malkovich forces the audience to associate with Craig Schwartz and root for him in the subconscious. Even though Craig and Maxine are the obvious villains at that point, you kinda want them to win. Yes, Being John Malkovich is actually Being Craig Schwartz!
I admire this piece of genius filmmaking, but it is pretty disturbing because of this.