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
When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
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
When Caden sees Hazel at the box-office, a brief shot reveals she is reading: page 1 of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, the first book of his multi-volume novel Search of Lost Time. A recurring character throughout Proust's novel is Dr. Cottard, reportedly based somewhat on Proust's own father, a noted physician, and on the Cotard who gives the delusional syndrome its name. 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 »
Try to keep in mind that a young person playing Willie Loman thinks he's only pretending to be at the end of a life full of despair. But the tragedy is that we know that you, the young actor will end up in this very place of desolation.
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I have been a huge fan of Charlie Kauffman's work for a long time. Each adventure into his mind has brought forth great wonder and great introspection for me.
In Being John Malkovich, he delved into the idea of the human soul. In Adaptation he showed how impossible it is to have originality in your creative endeavours and how life is more outrageous than movie. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind he let us face how we remain deeply entangled with those who have had so strong an affect on us that we wish it away. And whether or not that is the right thing to do.
Which brings us to Synechdoche, New York.
There are lessons to be learned throughout the film. Life, death, the roles we play to each other and the lies we tell ourselves. However, these lessons are not trickled in our ear, they are smashed into our brains with a heavy mallet. There is little to no joy in this escapade, no magic or happiness. I understand Hoffman's character is a man who does not feel these emotions but no one else does. The film spits bile at the idea of love being anything more than life's cruelest joke. Kauffman's on screen visions have hardly been cheery watching but they have still been injected with something otherworldly which sometimes filled your heart with warmth. Synechdoche New York does not.
I feel this was mainly down to one thing. Charlie Kauffman should stick to writing. It is what he excels at. How a man could turn a film about staging a play of your own life ad infinitum within a giant warehouse into maudlin, pretentious navel gazing is beyond me. The narrative is over-burdened with stories that go nowhere and have no point existing. Kauffman doesn't seem to realise what a great central premise he has and that he should stick to it. His wandering becomes aimless and tiresome well before the halfway mark. This only makes the moments of genius within (of which there are) all the more painful as you feel you should have earned them far before they are given.
I feel disappointed beyond reason. What could have blown me away has merely left me feeling cold. I hope the next time I see a Kauffman script on the screen this is not the case, since like I said, I am a fan of his work.
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