CHARLIE KAUFMAN (born 1958) writes film scripts that zig when you expect a zag. Fantastic notions are met with deadpan nonchalance, creating comedy of simmering delirium. He redefined the screwball comedy as more of a corkscrew comedy in Being John Malkovich, in which a triangle of lovers pursue their obsessions via the body of a fourth. Kaufman’s narrative impulses inject refreshing loop-de-loops into the art of screenwriting. His protagonists are hapless, his philosophical bent is self-exposure (Adaptation and Synecdoche, New York) and fractured identity (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). He flirts with surrealism, traffics in Beckett, glances at existentialism, sideswipes sci-fi, but mostly, Kaufman is an original. Anything is possible in his world. (Ever want to wipe a love affair out of your mind? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind obliges.) “I like taking the truth,” Kaufman says, “and screwing with it.” He derails expectation while satisfying needs you didn’t even know you had.
READ MORE about the Original Generation X.
Each day, HiLobrow.com pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.