What becomes of the cerebral Charlie Kaufman, blacksmith of scenarios that do not turn out right (Dans la peau de John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation…) in the 2000s ? This summer he published his first novel, Antkind, on a failed film critic, stuck on the adaptation of Arthur Herzog’s SF novel IQ 83 in mini-series for HBO and, twelve years after its first production, Synecdoche, New York, sign the bizarroid I just wanna end it (I’m Thinking of Ending Things), available on Netflix since September 4th.
A young couple cross Oklahoma under downpours of snow to meet the parents of Jake, the kind companion of an unnamed protagonist. The film opens with an interior monologue, while the young woman ruminates, in voiceover, her desire to end – with her relationship or with life itself, the French title maintains the ambiguity of the original version.
This road-trip that smells of fir will never cease to decline the expression of growing unease. It starts from the uncomfortable marital situation (source of image disturbances, all in dry cuts and false connections), to soon extend to dinner with the in-laws, until touching abysses of discomfort and expand the entire film in its image. Two fifteen hours in all, a good part of which hooked up to the dialogue of the couple in the closed-door of a car (we must salute the intelligence of the game of Jessie Buckley, tough and spicy, and Jesse Plemons, whose embarrassed gentleness recalls Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Cut from the stuff of a nightmare, the film doesn’t just “play Kaufman” by playing pig tricks on us. But exhaust the reasons for the interior decay to the point where all coherence of the story ebbs away. This one undulates between the codes of the horror film and a form of Beckettian absurdity, of which the dinner scene offers a gruesome summit. It will be remembered that in English, the epithet “mental” is used to mean cerebrality as much as madness. This milkshake of gray matter is swallowed with a grimace, like a drug that does not make any less insane, but condenses a rush of obsessions that the filmmaker seems to bring back from afar. Kaufman ponders, quotes Cassavetes and erases Zemeckis, harasses us with stinging shifts that he undoes in the same shot, then blows dream bubbles that give the film its emotion and its justification. On the edge of a snowy road in the middle of nowhere, an ice cream shop glows in the dark night, populated by ghostly waitresses. The scriptwriter-filmmaker’s latest hallu certainly looks bad and loses us in its most zany ends, but also knows how to diffuse a heady sweetness when it envelops, in a white coat, its very seasonal core of depression.
I just wanna end it of Charlie Kaufman (2 h 14) sur Netflix.