photo manipulation by nacrowe
i remember watching the documentary JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND (VICE FILMS, 2017) with a family relative at his house within a year of returning stateside. people had long thought that JIM CARREY had lost his mind based on some "unhinged" interviews he gave in which he questioned the very nature of identity. at best people thought he was attempting to be provocative and at worst, his faculties had devolved to the extent that we were now watching another HOLLYWOOD star in some sort of twisted, psychic free fall in which he had become detached from reality.
this documentary is based on his work in the MILOS FORMAN film MAN ON THE MOON (UNIVERSAL PICTURES, 1999) and the lengths in which he went through to become comedy icon ANDY KAUFMAN. first some background. KAUFMAN was a transgressive comedian who used several outlandish personas that were designed to confront, and ultimately destroy, audience expectations. he would withhold punchlines and gags indefinitely. it almost reminds me how german composer RICHARD WAGNER would utilize leitmotifs in his OPERAS that never resolved, leaving the listener to be more and more enwrapped in the proceedings without a release. KAUFMAN in my opinion was the COMEDY equivalent of such, working on a level that was both juvenile and transcendent. makes total sense that another generational talent in CARREY, a man of many faces himself, would be so intrigued. the footage of the filming showcases CARREY's dedication to being in character, even to the point of speaking with the family of KAUFMAN's in the first person.
it makes sense to me that life as performance art made an impact on how CARREY viewed himself as an individual, even apart from comedy, since in essence we are all performing for each other all the time. but who are we really?
this is where i think CARREY loses people when he talks about their being no individuality and that in essence we all cease to exist. i know my relative fealt that way.
in my mind that was BUDDHISM 101, the idea of ANATMAN or "non-self." there is no soul or unchanging essence that precedes us or follows us into death. the idea of self-hood is a mirage, a biological phenomena that helps us get through our lives but is ultimately a lie. this precept takes root in HINDUISM with the concept of ATMAN, or a self concept, that in some schools is equated with BRAHMAN, or the ultimate reality. its interesting because in the HINDU context, in essence there is also no individuality because we are all in essence an extension, a manifestation of BRAHMAN. any concept of selfhood as being separate from the physical world is a contradiction in terms, by definition you are of this world because it is you.
for me the most interesting nugget in this film is how this idea of a non-self becomes interjected with the acting occupation, where people take on personas for a living. in a sense, any persona is as relevant as any other and, to draw the point home again, we all are engaged in this activity. we all perform according to what the local normative culture requires of us. i personally saw this again and again living overseas when fellow AMERICANS would take on the racial prejudices of the local majority population. it always jarred me but made sense on a certain level, that your sense of self is intertwined with your surrounding context.
the fact that CARREY took this concept to heart doesnt seem crazy at all but a recognition of the false precepts that we all assume are resolute and unyielding when it comes to our sense of identity, yet in actual fact they are all inventions created to help us navigate an uncertain reality,
a fascinating documentary well worth checking out, whether or not you find the humor of CARREY amusing. this film is working on a level far beyond that and i hope it reaches a decent audience, as we are in a downward spiral at the moment based on cults of personality and mass conformity spear-headed by corporate media companies of all political stripes. the message of this film resonates with me far beyond the context of one actor and a film he did in the late 90s.
what doesn't jive with me is CARREY's anti-vaccine horse shit. that's another rant altogether. SMH.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
MILOS FORMAN's masterful film AMADEUS (ORION PICTURES, 1984) follows the life and career of childlike musical prodigy WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART from the envious perspective of his "rival," 18th century VENITIAN composer ANTONIO SALIERI. despite the fact that this rivalry is up for serious dispute by historians, in this film it functions as a useful tool in examining the nature of genius.
when confronted with those whose natural gifts for surpass our own, we often superimpose on these people an aura of power and supremacy. i know i am that way whenever i visit a clinic or step on an airplane. to me physicians and pilots are superhuman, when in reality i know that these are just talented people with lots of training and hard work to hone their respective crafts. but what if they didn't necessarily work for their position. what if it was just innate and furthermore, what if they acted immature about their stature.
to me this is the crux of AMADEUS. MOZART is depicted as a spoiled, lustful, immature, self-absorbed twit who also happens to me a musical prodigy of the first order. in SALIERI we see a composer that used his limited ability and gifts to rise up the ranks via sheer willpower and attention to his craft over years of diligent training and self-examination. he is the embodiment of the puritan ethic and yet he is outshined by this impetuous imp.
anyone entering this film has a cursory knowledge of the work of MOZART and his legacy as a seminal pillar in the western cultural tradition and very likely unfamiliar with a minor historical footnote like SALIERI, yet the film confronts us to have conflicting emotions about the two and who has value.
despite its supposed historical inaccuracies, for me this film is an incredible examination of the nature of genius and the cult of adoration that follows. obviously genius isn't bestowed on those that deserve it, but each time i look past the unfortunate aspects of people that i admire, whether that be MORRISSEY, MILES DAVIS, JAMES BROWN, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR or even CHUCK BERRY, i consider this film and how it illustrates that at the end of the day these are still just people.