A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Theater director Caden Cotard is mounting a new play. Fresh off of a successful production of Death of a Salesman, he has traded in the suburban blue-hairs and regional theater of Schenectady for the cultured audiences and bright footlights of Broadway. Armed with a MacArthur grant and determined to create a piece of brutal realism and honesty, something into which he can put his whole self, he gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in Manhattan's theater district. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a small mock-up of the city outside. As the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden's own life veers wildly off the tracks. The shadow of his ex-wife Adele, a celebrated painter who left him years ago for Germany's art scene, sneers at him from every corner. Somewhere in Berlin, his daughter Olive is growing up under the questionable guidance of Adele's friend, Maria. He's helplessly driving his marriage to actress ... Written by
Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines "synecdoche" as: "a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage)." See more »
In the scene where Caden is talking to Hazel directly after having talked to the doctor after his seizure, there is a dog in a box behind Hazel in her box office. Upon cutting to Caden, and then cutting back, the dog is gone. This is the remnants of the character "Squishy", from the original draft of the script. The almost-dead dog was found by Hazel after driving home from the premiere. She was saddened by Caden denying her, and she finds the dog, run over and bloody on the side of the road. She decides to keep it. This is the only scene where he is present, and his presence is not explained. See more »
One thing right ahead: Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is an extremely uncomfortable film. It is likely not to make much sense the first time around, that you are too busy taking it all in and your efforts to understand it get derailed. Many will end up repelled by the experience and don't feel the desire to return to it. Subsequent viewings however should help to value the gargantuan task Kaufman has undertaken and to look forward to further visits to that strange place called "Synecdoche". Make no mistake: This is no love story, much less a happy one, not a tale about someone succeeding or get rewarded by any kind of redemption. There are images which seem too trivial to be part of a cinematic masterpiece, and you'll wonder about the surreality of some scenes and the layers upon layers that stack up. But getting into the film and getting out of it again only can be accomplished with difficulty. And that's a good thing.
On the surface "Synecdoche" is about theater director Caden Cotard (understatedly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose life more and more slips out of his hands and literally rushes by in the film's narrative. An unexpected award gives him the chance to attempt something big, and so he builds a simulacrum, a life-size replica of New York, casting people to play roles in it in order to replace the persons of his life. But the simulacrum is not enough, and while he tries everything and then some in his struggle to find a sure footing, a proof of his existence between life and death, he turns out to be nothing else than the ultimate victim of his limitations. Caden's story is about the loss of himself in the imitations he created, yet miraculously this sad life eventually becomes part of something larger by just fading away. For watchers will notice a deliberately designed circular structure of the film... One could even argue that Caden might just be a character in a film, and longing for a life outside. Up to you! Make sure to watch "Synecdoche" more than once. And maybe at some point you'll learn to smile along with this postmodern masterpiece.
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