Simulated dust motes danced in simulated sunlight as Shazz made yet another
of her occasional attempts to clear up the mess in the H2G2 Post Office. I'm
not surprised this is a virtual environment, she thought, it's virtually
uninhabitable for one thing.
Thrusting another half-dozen empty doughnut cartons into an already
overflowing bin she paused to light her pipe. Rich, aromatic green fumes added
to the already murky office atmosphere and a languid moment was only disturbed
by a salvo of liquid barking noises as Shazz nearly coughed up a lung.
The cleaning attempt temporarily put on hold Shazz sat down behind her
ink-stained desk and mused about the next edition. All the usual
suspects, she thought, although as usual one member of the team was
shockingly behind deadline, delaying her, inconveniencing the Towers, and
letting down the other contributors. Utterly, reprehensibly
irresponsible, Shazz thought with disgust. When I get my hands on
'Awix!' she said, cranking a saintly smile onto her face as a familiar
figure shambled in through the virtual door. There was no mistaking the pallid
hairless dome, the rolls of fat, or the terrible dress-sense. 'I was hoping
you'd pop in today.'
'Uh, well, erm,' Awix responded with a confused smile. He stepped aside to
let his slim and lovely girlfriend Lisa follow him into the office. 'Got the,
uhr, stuff if you still need it.'
'Great. Hi Lisa,' Shazz smiled. 'Wow, that dress looks great on you!'
'Thanks, it's Italian.' Lisa and Shazz did that French air-kissing thing -
Shazz could tell Awix was watching and thinking about Tatu from the gawping
lasciviousness of his expression. 'So, what have you got for us this week?'
'Um, right.' Awix fished about in his pockets. 'Freshly edited episode of
168, same again for The Edge... oh, and we were thinking about
doing another TV review thing.'
That'll play well with readers from outside the UK, thought Shazz in
near-despair. 'And what about one of your film reviews? That's the really
popular thing you do!' Though God alone knows why…
'Oh, yeah, that. Well, you see, I, um...'
'What Awix is trying to say that is that he feels we're stuck in a bit of a
stylistic rut at the moment,' Lisa explained. 'He feels every review kicks off
with some generic comments, then we write a synopsis with some cheap and
obvious gags in it, then try to make serious critical points for a couple of
paragraphs. He wants to try something different.'
'Oh. Good,' Shazz said dubiously. 'So what did you go and see this
'Adaptation.,' Awix said. 'It's got that guy out of Con Air in
it but he's got really fat. It's dead weird.'
'It comes on like the sound of one man screaming into his own navel,' Lisa
revealed. 'It does seem like an incredibly self-indulgent film. Charlie
Kaufman, the screenwriter, has written himself into his own screenplay as the
main character. He was supposed to write an adaptation of Susan Orlean's book
The Orchid Thief but he's written a film about how he impossible he
actually found doing that. And God knows how or why, but the studio made
'Wasn't this the one with a few Oscar nominations?' Shazz enquired
'Uh, yeah. The fat guy, and the guy what wrote it, and wossname Cooper,'
Awix said cheerily. 'Only one of them won though. The thing is that most of the
characters are, like, real people, but made-up versions of themselves.'
'Fancy that,' Shazz sighed. 'It sounds a bit self-reflexive. You know,
in-jokey?' - this last added to try and dispel Awix's look of blank
'Oh, yeah, that,' Awix said. 'I didn't get all the jokes, you'd need some
kind of brochure to explain it to you, probably. Well, I didn't, Lisa was there
to explain it all to me, weren't you, chickadee? And the Kaufman guy comes off
as really kind of up himself, writing himself as this neurotic geeky guy - God,
I despise these self-pitying writers, always putting themselves down and
fishing for compliments. He's given himself this imaginary twin brother, too,
played by the same guy out of Con Air.'
'But to be fair to him, Kaufman makes a reasonable stab at justifying what's
basically a wildly and possibly unnecessarily eccentric and convoluted script,'
Lisa said, smiling fondly at her beloved. 'Kaufman the character writes the
script of the film he appears in, which can get a bit weird. But all the
performances are really very strong and it's a very funny film.'
'Oh, good,' Shazz said distractedly. Awix had started poking through the
pile of litter she'd just painstakingly assembled, in search of doughnut
fragments. Fat chance of that with Greebo about, she thought. 'So how
does the plot work? Is there one?'
'Well,' Lisa said, her face becoming more serious. 'For most of the running
time this is a film really without a conventional narrative. Kaufman sets out
to write something completely at odds with the traditional screenplay
structure, a story where the participants don't have traditional aims or
motivations and without a normal sense of closure. So we get a series of scenes
reflecting this, intercut with him worrying about how a script of this type is
actually impossible to write. He's really trying to have his cake and eat it
here but it's enormously entertaining.
'Then, near the end of the film, he gives in and the movie adopts an almost
hyperbolically cliched thriller style, as if to mock his earlier aspirations.
The shift in style is brilliantly, subtly achieved - and, come to think of it,
what I've just said probably counts as a massive spoiler, so I'd better leave
it out of the actual review when Awix and I get around to writing it. The whole
film is self-indulgent and probably too clever for its own good, but it's also
an extremely witty wail of frustration from a writer, despairing of the tyranny
of regular storytelling structure but also giving in and accepting that, in
order to work, that kind of structure is normally essential - films need
closure, characters need to grow, objectives must be attained.' Lisa shrugged.
'It's as simple as that.'
'So, to make an analogy, any kind of review, simply because it's a review,
must contain a few solid paragraphs of analysis somewhere down the line?' Shazz
'Yes, that's about right,' Lisa agreed.
Awix sighed and put down the bin he'd been rooting through. 'I've been
thinking about what I'm going to say in the preview of the movie,' he
announced. 'Y'know, in the new style.'
'Review, honey,' Lisa said with an indulgent smile.
'Whatever. I thought I'd be, like, punchy and outspoken and maybe give a
rating - like three out of five little stars? And some pithy comment like how
this kind of clever arty film is all very well once in while but give me
something with kung fu and rappers and lapdancing any week. Oh, and then I
thought I’d put in a kind of blatant plug-stroke-link for The Vault of Lies-‘
‘I shouldn’t bother, no-one ever reads the back issues,’
Shazz said. ‘What do you want to put as the byline?’
‘The what?’ Awix gawped at her.
‘The bit on the front page saying what the article’s actually
about,’ Shazz sighed.
‘How about, “Another brilliant film review by
Awix”?’ he said with an artless grin. ‘Or “Awix honours
us with his words of wisdom once more.” Or –‘
‘How about, “Awix risks seriously pissing off his
editor”?’ Shazz suggested, deadpan.
Awix blinked at her. ‘Erm, well, if that’s what you think is
best. It’s only a movie for smart-a***s, after all.’
'Personally I really liked it,' Lisa said with a shrug. 'But it's your
column, darling. I know what you mean though - Charlie Kaufman is a brilliant
writer and can pull this kind of metatextual conceit off. I shudder to think
what would happen if any old amateur hack tried copying his style. One thing's
for sure, it wouldn't be pretty.'
Shazz shuddered involuntarily. 'No,' she said. 'It absolutely wouldn't.'