Cult comedian Andy Kaufman was as likely to play a dark-edged prank on an audience as tell a joke. So it's fitting that Milos Forman's recreation of the edgy icon's life is just as sly, opening with the end credits and having Kaufman pull the viewerís leg
Although largely unheralded in this country, Andy Kaufman was a unique comic force. Part stand-up, part performance artist, part man-child, part borderline psychotic, Kaufman hugely influenced a generation of American comedians, among them Jim Carrey. He also had an effect on writers Alexander and Karaszewski, here completing their unofficial trilogy of oddball American biopics - Ed Wood (1994) and The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996).
To give a hint of the strange world of Andy Kaufman, Forman's film opens with a brilliantly surreal device - Carrey, as Kaufman, talking directly to the audience, explaining that the film you are about to see is rubbish, the best bit is the titles, so that's all you're going to see. Good night. He then stands there as the titles role for what seems like an impossibly long time - then the gag is broken and "Andy" welcomes us into his world.
We leap between the notable and noted events - Kaufman's childhood job as a children's party entertainer and his desire to do the same act for adults, through to his TV success on Saturday Night Live and Taxi, his politically incorrect desire to wrestle women, and his possible descent into alter-ego madness with the creation of the truly obnoxious lounge singer Tony Clifton.
Naturally, such a film stands or falls on its central performance. At first, there is some doubt as to whether Carrey is up to the job. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, Carrey falls away and Kaufman comes to life before your eyes. It's a truly remarkable performance but it's a shame that the writers opt to play Kaufman as an overgrown innocent for the entire movie. Never examining what many feel was closer to madness than man-child.
Minor quibbles aside, two hours later - when the titles really do roll - you realise you've just been in a very special world indeed.