Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Synecdoche, New York" (2008): An Art Movie's Art Movie. a markos! review

Synecdoche, New York
Written and Directed by Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener

"Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life in New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one.
Worried about the transience of his life, he leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in New York City, hoping to create a work of brutal honesty. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside."
-Summary from © Sony Pictures Classics

"A soul-altering, heart-changing, brain-transplanting masterpiece." - Matthew De Abaitua (Channel 4 Film)
"It's a cerebral, smart and downright surreal trip into the far reaches of the mind. I'm still having trouble working out whether it's a work of genius or a self-indulgent pile of guff." - David Edwards (Daily Mirror [UK])

Here's my review of this bizarre think-piece:
Part Gondry, part Lynch, and part Jonze, surreal, Kafkaesque, existential, dark, narcissistic, funny at times, irksome, and grandiose. Ambitious in its attempt to stridently encompass many aspects of human nature especially art, dying, love, meaning, and vanity. As people, we each play a part: we each spend out entire lives learning to live, and we never really 'get it' until we die. Also, you can never fully know anyone else and you can never really know yourself. One major aspect of human nature that was only subtly, instead of blatantly, portrayed (in the later 'casting scenes' of the movie), is the human struggle and desire for power, whether by hegemony or coercion. Still, the film does a thorough job of showing how human identity and understanding are always obscured.
What most impresses me, besides the brilliant acting (Hoffman) and good cinematography, was the fact that through all of this deep shit and heavy subject matter, Kaufman somehow managed to still induce a few laugh out loud funny moments. It's an art movie's art movie, no objectivity here, about as postmodern as you can get. There are many many subjective little elements in the film for all different people to take their own unique meanings from. Kaufman had to walk a difficult line between telling the audience the themes and showing them the themes. Considering the weight of the themes, he did great work. Shakespeare already said it best of course, "All the world's a stage and all the people merely players."
-- Mark Anderson


  1. I can't wait to see this. Such good actors & actresses!