Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"There are nearly 13 million people in the world, none of them are an extra." REVIEW

Synecdoche, New York-Charlie Kaufman-2008


It isn't often that we are offered a film such as this. Charlie Kaufman's latest opus Synecdoche, New York has left many a viewer baffled at it's sheer audacity, at it's total disregard for regularity, at it's blatant lack of "American" filmmaking. It's easy to be afraid while viewing such a film, but it is such a film that should be championed.

Kaufman is the screenwriter of such art house fare as, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With all the credibility he has garnered from his outstanding run of film's, Synecdoche is his directorial debut.

The film follows Caden Cotard(Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a married theatre director with a four year old daughter. Caden is constantly worried about death. He directs a rendition of Death Of A Salesman, using young people in the place of the main characters. After Caden's wife, Adele(Catherine Keener), leaves him, taking their four year old daughter Olive, Caden's fears grow. He loses track of time, even going so far as believing his wife has only been gone a week, when, in fact, it has been a year. As the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having fun", no one mentions the fact that time basically only flies whenever we don't want it to.

Caden then receives a MacArthur Genius Grant, and decides he wants to do something with his life. He wants to create a huge masterpiece of theatre using truth as his guide. He creates a life-size replica of his town and begins directing reenactments of his own life theatrically.

The plot truly goes in so many different directions, but a film like this should not be studied for it's plot. It is structured in such a way that it would be impossible to make sense of time, place and even reality. Scenes come at us seemingly haphazardly, but they are linked with common traits of theme and substance. This isn't the type of film where we are to examine and think, "Was it all in his head?" or "Is this some sort of day dream?", but the questions we should be putting forth are, "Why is this important?" I won't pretend to have Synecdoche figured out, and that's the point. This isn't a film to be totally figured out. Can it be mastered? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that one can grasp all of it's themes, and get a feel and understanding of every character's purpose, but no this film is of the caliber that it cannot be subjected to a theoretical plot analysis of any type.

Kaufman seems to be exercising his own demon's here, and this is something that also makes this film so mesmerizing. While Caden is searching for truth through his epic directorial effort, could Kaufman be expounding that very same sentiment?

It's as if Kaufman is given a sheet of paper, he proceeds to shred that paper into many different pieces and throws them into the air. Some land near each other, some further away, some are blown out of viewing distance, but they are all still connected. They are all pieces that fit together, and Kaufman follows each one of them to their end. This is truth. This is art.

Caden's existential dilemma is played out through various scenes and reenactments, but we are never given a monologue to explain where Caden truly is at this point in his life. This film is not of our world.
Synecdoche, New York is a film of grand ambition, reminiscent of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, not in it's overall themes or basic plot, but in the kind of questions it is asking, and the way in which we are presented with these questions. This isn't a film of answers, it's more philosophical than that(just like 2001). The viewer is given questions to ponder and relate back to the film. We are given no moral to hold fast to and teach our children, we are simply shown truth for what it is, life for all it carries. This film's messy structure is, in itself, a reenactment of the way in which our mind recalls life. Life is messy, the scenes of our life don't flow perfectly together like a storybook. Often times we aren't met with a connecting scene in our life for months, or years, to the scene or moment we have just encountered. This is where Kaufman examines the human condition to utter perfection. We are all messy, we are all lonely, we are all imperfect.

I will always champion films that encourage me, not only to live a better life, but to live the life more abundant. To get out there and do something, get excited about something and act on it. This is such a film.

1 comment:

TinyVessels said...

I agree 100%. I feel that Caden has one of the messiest lives I have ever seen. How could a film look and feel so clean if it wants to drive forward the idea that Caden's life is a mess? I could watch this movie every day of my life and not get bored because of the little new details and messages that I could pick up in each viewing.