March 24, 2004 [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind]

Back in 1977, plenty of SF folk weren’t happy with Star Wars.  Sure, finally someone had done the space opera full justice, flashing a happy-geek grin back at the Hugo Gernsback ‘20s filled with bug-eyed monsters and whiz-bang gangs from the stars, while Prince Valiant with a bubble-topped spacesuit zoomed to the rescue.  And the Force appealed to those New Wavers who wanted SF to loosen up and either get funky or get real spiritual/mystical.  And on top of it all, George Lucas shaved away the cynicism of dystopian SF—which he himself had captured so well in THX 1138--and let a Gene Roddenberry-esque optimism grow like a Summer of Love head of hair.  It was campy, no kidding, but never condescending.

But the New Wave could not be placated, the dangerous vision that swept up old hands like Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber and mix-mastered them with young Turks fresh out of the two Clarion workshops, hoping to out-Dick Philip K. and Sturgeon and the rest of the old-school upstarts.  The SF movie seemed at first reluctant to play with these speculating Merry Pranksters, despite the big-budget Matrix mashers and moshers of Blade Runner and Robocop and Total Recall--which messed with our heads while delivering familiar faces--including Han Solo’s.
The good news is that the movies always try to catch up: Something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would have been perfectly at home in the late ‘60s, workshop’d into shape by talented experimentalists and alternative-lifestyle surfers eager to--what? In the end, maybe simply to found a Romantic Movement in nerdville, an ecstatic Xanadu yawped down the halls where future mad scientists play with superstrings and what might be the secret genetic codes that will finally blow our minds like dandelion puffballs across Bradburyan lawns, past John Brunner’s breathless apocalypse and the stubborn multiverse in your head--straight to the truly SF sight of Jim Carrey in hopeless love with a multi-colored Kate Winslet, blinded by science, rubbed out but bouncing back, poetry in motion in full Digital Dolby.

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