If anything defined 2014 for the purposes of this post, it was the number of amazing new voices that flooded independent cinema. One of the biggest standouts was Desiree Akhavan, who wrote, directed and starred in her debut feature Appropriate Behavior, about a Brooklyn woman dealing with the fallout from an unpleasant breakup as she continuously tries to keep her bisexuality hidden from her conservative Persian family. It was hilarious, honest and unique, and we fell in love with it immediately.
With such a strong debut feature, we naturally had to find out which filmmaker had inspired Desiree. So who has she opted to discuss on the show?
(drumroll) Writer/director/cult favourite Charlie Kaufman!
There’s a reason we stress words like auteur and filmmaker instead of director, and it’s not because we’re impossibly pretentious. Sure, that’s part of it, but there’s another reason too: the author of a film, though most often a director, can also be the writer. Or the editor. Or even the producer.
Never was this more apparent than when Being John Malkovich arrived in 1999, and the names Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze both hit pop culture consciousness with equal force. When Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were released, the same thing happened: the prospect of a new Charlie Kaufman film created just as much excitement as the names of directors Jonze and Michel Gondry. He had, with his very first film, become part of that ultra-rare breed: a screenwriter whose name is used to lure audiences.
To date, the only feature film he’s directed has been Synecdoche New York, a work that synthesised all of the themes he’d explored in his previous scripts. For the sake of the next podcast, our discussion of Kaufman’s work will focus just as heavily on the films he wrote as the one he directed.
But what is it about Kaufman’s work that specifically appeals to Desiree? Check back in with us when the episode is released on February 28 to find out.