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
In a radio interview, director Charlie Kaufman revealed that while scouting for a location, he and a few other crew members became stuck in an elevator late at night and were afraid it would plummet. They had to open the doors and jump out to escape. In the same interview, Kaufman discussed a recurring and claustrophic dream he has about being stuck in an elevator, and that the movie was purposefully structured like a dream (it has double the amount of scenes than an average movie of its length). See more »
When Caden and Hazel are talking about Hazel's relationship with Sammy, in the background, the actress Tammy lights a cigarette. Seconds later, when the scene is shown from a different angle, again Tammy lights the cigarette. See more »
One of the movies Synecdoche brought to mind for me was Bunuel's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" in which two different actresses play the same character with no explanation of any sort offered within the narrative.
It's always refreshing to me to see events in movies occur without the writer/director/actors seeming to feel any need to "explain it" to the viewer. As with (m)any other filmmakers who are genuinely engaged with film as a unique art form, it seems quite clear to me at least that Kaufman requires the spectator to meet him on his own wavelength.
This is what a significant portion of artists in any medium do: they take the constraints, conventions, and materials of their chosen form very seriously and explore their own perceptions, ideas, and emotions plying the tools of their medium on their own personal terms.
At the opposite end of this artistic spectrum is the sort of pandering manipulation of a Spielberg or the painter Thomas Kincaid. Their works are only "personal" in the sense that what is most prominently on display in their work is their own desperate personal need to have their intended message "understood" (and even experienced) by all spectators in exactly the same way, so that "the artist" can in turn feel his own personal worth has been validated by public and critical responses - "Hah, I must be a great artist, because I succeeded in making you think and feel the exact thing I wanted you to!"
I'll grant that this "spectrum" is a very broad one, and I won't discount the work of anyone along it, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy things I see as technically accomplished hackwork. I don't, and never will.
I'll take an artist who refuses to telegraph his "statement" to me any day. I prefer works that wash over me, entrance me, and lead me down paths to new or long-buried thoughts and feelings.
I feel GREAT after having seen Synecdoche this evening. I laughed, I cried, and I see the world just a little differently now. I feel like a group of people I have never met (Kaufman and the others involved in making this wonderful movie) shared something with me that was very important to them. I wish I could thank them, because I think it takes a great deal of courage to share with others things that are so personally important in such an honest, unapologetic way.
I think it also takes a lot of courage for investors to throw millions of dollars at such a personal vision. It gives me hope for humanity that such a thing is possible.
The Day the Earth Stood Still gave me a tiny little glimmer of this sort of hope last weekend. But that movie was like a vending machine bag of chips compared to the full-course-meal of Synecdoche New York.
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