The James Clayton Column: Bad movie memories and horrible history erased for eternal sunshine

Inspired by a troubling scene in The Warrior’s Way, James lists the film moments he’d happily erase from memory…

Human beings can’t alter the past unless they’re screenwriters or film directors. If you’re not one of them or an incarnation of Doctor Who, then you’re going to struggle to change history without an expansive Stalinesque Cult of Personality and propaganda setup in place and some high-calibre airbrushing tools.

Otherwise, you’re going to have to make it into the moviemaking business so you can get all Mel Gibson on history and, with blue-faced cheek, abusively reinterpret it in your own interest.

Thus empowered, time no longer holds you prisoner and you can flash your backside in its face, defiantly cry “freedom!” and play with it as you will. Hollywood especially loves doing this and has done repeatedly until the remaining impression is that America broke the enigma code and that Tom Hanks saved Private Ryan, was the true hero of World War II and went on to be a bystander at a great many of the major events of the 20th century. (This DVD textbook might be a muddled pirate copy merging multiple films into one.)

If you’re bold and imaginative enough you can even go gung-ho and Inglourious Basterd-ise what has been and gone until Hitler is blown to pieces in a Paris cinema before he has chance to pull the trigger on himself in his Berlin bunker. (Though we all know that that was just a decoy and that the real Führer is currently in cryofreeze, orbiting the moons of Saturn and waiting for an opportune moment to launch the Fourth Reich afresh from distant outer space.)

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Though we’d all like to go back and prevent the Holocaust, the truth is that we’re selfish, and when it comes to changing the past, more concerned with pretty mundane and personal stuff. I wish I’d never gone out with them! Why did I get that terrible haircut?! Those are the kind of things that really upset us and leave a lingering bad taste.

These traumas and regrets can make us bitter, ashamed and do terrible things to us psychologically, and the fact we can’t change them, even if we suddenly transformed into Quentin Tarantino and summoned up a scalp-happy Basterd squad, confounds us. If we can’t edit or alter the past, then let’s erase it.

This is where Lacuna, Inc. of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind enters the frame, ready to offer its neuroscientific expertise and memory removal services.

The film (written by Charlie Kaufman, directed by Michel Gondry) sprang to mind as I was watching the ninja-western-circus flick The Warrior’s Way recently. It promised much and disappointed (where was the “Ninjas! Damn!” line from the trailer? I waited the whole film for that gem of a quote and it never came!), but I don’t regret seeing it.

There is, however, one unfortunate moment that I wish I hadn’t witnessed and that I’d like wiped from my mind, and that’s where the targeted memory erasure technicians are needed.

It probably goes to show how distorted my priorities and personality are, but the little list of things I’d like Lacuna, Inc. to pick and free me from come from films. I have no hope that they can help me with the haunting ghosts of ‘real life’, but I have faith that they can exorcise the visual stains that have filtered into my mind when I’ve watched the movies mentioned below.

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It shouldn’t take too long, and when these bad visions have been erased, my cinematic memory will be spotless and I’ll have eternal sunshine, liberated from the lingering flashes of the following awful scenes…

The Warrior’s Way: Geoffrey Rush’s arse

Rush, a.k.a. Captain Barbossa and award-winning, highly renowned Australian actor of stage and screen, plays the town drunk in this freakshow noodle Western. It’s all good fun and he does a fine job, until we have to see his wasted form wandering around in nothing but undergarments that leave his pallid backside exposed, hanging out forlornly. Having now seen Cap’n Barbossa’s asscrack, I can honestly say I’d rather face down the Kraken than contemplate Rush’s bare buttocks again. A pitiful, painful and distressing state of affairs.

Tropic Thunder: Les Grossman

Tom Cruise put on prosthetic hands and played a ‘player’ movie mogul and everyone seemed to find it hilarious. For me, though, the whole thing was deeply sinister. All I felt was revulsion and shuddering dread as I suffered through the sight of this grotesque man busting moves to Flo Rida.

The Forbidden Kingdom: Jet Li pees on Jackie Chan

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Why is martial arts legend Jet Li urinating on my beloved Hong Kong action idol? Imagine a devout Roman Catholic being forced to sit through the scene in The Exorcist where the cathedral is blasphemously defiled and then imagine that it’s revealed to be the Pope who did it (with vicious relish). That’s a near equivalent of what happened with Li, Chan and me in this Americanised kung fu caper. A golden shower of gross chopsocky sacrilege.

There’s Something About Mary: the zipper incident

Ben Stiller’s prom night testicle tragedy traumatised me as a little boy and the thought of it still brings tears to my eyes.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: bye bye Jar Jar Binks

I hereby declare the irritating Gungan banished. The problem with erasing bits out of the Star Wars prequels, though, is that, once you begin, it’s hard to stop. If you start blasting any trace of midi-chlorians talk and removing the awful young Anakin, the whole saga starts to fall apart.

A more effective alternative might be to just wait for George Lucas to clean up the offending articles in an inevitable future special edition remaster. All we need to do is implant the right ideas and edits in his mind and, bingo, we have unstained, perfect Star Wars prequels.

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I guess that means that Lacuna, Inc. and the Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind method aren’t what we’re looking for. Inception offers more effective solutions and shows that, to overcome the past, perhaps you need to change the present and the future.

Perhaps by placing those creative thoughts inside the mind of George Lucas we can set in motion the course of events that culminates in the multiverse’s history being one in which Jar Jar is wiped from existence. Then we’ll finally be able to make peace with the regrettable past, at least until Hitler thaws out and launches the fresh Fourth Reich offensive from the rings of Saturn.

James’ previous column can be found here.

James sketched a series of movie spoof comics and they can be found here.

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