21 November 2017 | BandSAboutMovies
What is truth?
Few things get me more emotional than Andy Kaufman. Even hearing a few words of R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon" makes my eyes well up. I remember watching his early appearances live on Saturday Night Live and the night he got into a fist fight on Fridays. And while I was alive for his descent into pro wrestling mania and his battle with cancer, I don't remember much of the end. Maybe I didn't want to process it. Maybe that's why I believed — to this day — that Andy is just waiting to pull the curtain back on all of us and come back. And maybe not coming back? Perhaps that's his best trick of all.
Conversely, I've never liked Jim Carrey. Unlike Andy, who undermined his own popularity and resisted the mainstream while simultaneously making a living from it, he seemed too eager to please. Too happy to take and take from the blockbuster machine, to be in works that didn't challenge him. That's why The Cable Guy surprised me. Here as the buffoon who mugged his way through Dumb and Dumber forcing viewers to contemplate the pain behind the character. He followed that movie with later challenging films like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The Jim Carrey that appears here is not the rubber-faced maniac who seemed to cry out, "Watch me! Love me!" This is a graying, faded, bearded, rougher man who has been through no small degree of personal loss and pain. And this is also a man who willingly gave his identity over to not just Andy Kaufman, but to Andy's more frightening side, the villainous Tony Clifton.
In a recent Newsweek article, Kaufman's sister gives some insight: "I think that Jim Carrey was a vessel," she said. " I do believe he allowed Andy to come through him. I also chose to believe that Andy was coming through him. When he looked at me, I'm not kidding. It was like speaking to Andy from the great beyond. I felt like he was coming through as the evolved, astral Andy."
I've watched Milos Forman's Man on the Moon numerous times. And I've read plenty of books, digested plenty of articles and watched every appearance Andy did on TV. I look to him in the way that I extend to few performers: he's more of a truth-speaking prophet than just a person. Do I give him too much credit? Do I see things in him, do I project magic that he wasn't able to perform? I think — I fervently believe — that he was something more. A force. Someone who was able to push buttons, upset people and be a real-life wrestling heel while at the same time delivering childlike moments of whimsy and wonder. Just the footage of him inviting everyone to join him for milk and cookies after his Carnegie Hall performance makes me weep openly. It feels too real, too loving, too honest and much too true.
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