Being John Malkovich (15)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: 'American Arts and Culture Presents John Horatio Malkovich, Dance of Despair and Disillusionment'; Spike Jonze interview; 7 1/2 Floor Orientation; 4 TV spots; Spike's photo album; Theatrical trailer; Animated menus; Menu music; Cast and film-maker notes.

WHERE to begin? Spike ‘Three Kings’ Jonze’s debut as director is as weird as they come - while also managing to be both breathtakingly original and blindingly funny.

John Cusack stars as a failing puppeteer whose decision to take a filing job in an obscure New York office leads to the discovery of a portal to John Malkovich’s brain - allowing him 15 minutes to see through the eyes of the actor before being ejected around a deserted New Jersey turnpike.

Using the discovery to impress the object of his desire - Catherine Keener’s self-obsessed secretary - the two decide to start charging people for the right to enter the celebrity’s brain, by offering them the chance to be someone else albeit momentarily.

But the money-making scheme isn’t without its complications, as Cusack’s strained relationship with his frumpy pet shop worker wife Cameron Diaz (yes, frumpy!!!) is stretched to the limit and Malkovich himself sets about trying to discover what’s going on inside his mind.

Being John Malkovich is, without doubt, one of the strangest movies you are ever likely to see - but while certainly obscure, it is also wildly inventive and constantly surprising.

By affording each actor the chance to send themselves up hilariously, we are treated to a tongue-in-cheek tour-de-force, which sees Cusack reduced to a nervous, fumbling nerd; Diaz an insecure, dowdy house-wife unsure of whether she wants to become a man; and Malkovich poking fun at his ‘serious’ image - his journey into his own mind is one of many surreal highlights.

Jonze also deserves credit for never allowing things to become stale or predictable, tossing in plenty for the audience to think about while punctuating the movie with some superb cameos - Charlie Sheen as Malkovich’s best friend is particularly memorable.

So if things occasionally threaten to become boring, there is always another obscure plot twist waiting around the corner to wrongfoot the viewer.

Being John Malkovich certainly won’t appeal to everyone - mainstream audiences will probably find it too quirky and offbeat - but as a challenging piece of cinema which dares to be different, it offers vast rewards for anyone willing to give it a go.