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 »
Announcer on the radio at the very beginning says it's 22 September. The newspaper is dated in October, it's Christmas when the sinks smashes his forehead, New Year's on the ride home and March in the ophthalmologist's office. Kaufman afforded his film a dreamlike quality by playing with the representation of time throughout. See more »
Knowing that you don't know is the first and most essential step to knowing, you know?
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no conventional score applies to Synecdoche, New York
It is very difficult to conceive of a movie much more complex than synecdoche. Yet, oddly, I have no desire to see it again just so that I might resolve something. Not because I disliked it, but because so many scenes were indelibly imprinted within my mind such that I "get it". That is, I "get it" as much as can be expected. My first impression as the movie started was that "dialogue" was the entertainment. Actually, for this reason (i.e., dialogue), I would see this movie again. However, because the dialogue heightened my awareness of the same, it became easily perceptible when dialogue began to yield its place to various "prop devices" as the centerpiece of entertainment. I'm not necessarily using the phrase "prop devices" as disapproval because we sometimes present ourselves as silly when we, for example, indicate that such and such should not exist or should be replaced by such and such. In many cases, we would have then simply created "another movie". In this case, maybe we should make our own movie. That's when some of us would realize just how difficult it is to actually make one of these things. Some of the devices (literary or cinematographic) used by Kaufman were stunning or spectacular! For example, the "voice" of Adele's (Cotard's wife played by Catherine Keener) miniature paintings, and the paintings themselves, were used to great effect. The creation of a "New York within New York" presents very interesting and creative cinematography. The work (make-up, costume, and lighting) performed to create the illusion of aging characters is also very well done. And while the seemingly non-stop, nested twists and turns might make one dizzy, it is just this unexpected variety that provided a journey instead of just another movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman continues to deliver. I found his performance to be communicative and almost accessible to the touch, as one is almost unaware that he is acting. This gives us the feeling that we know him. We then become comfortable with him, and finally empathetic.
This movie comes at you in layers of interwoven humanness. Every message invited the audience to think about themselves, their families, their lives, their legacy, their meaning, and their relationships. Caden Cotard (main character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) was chronically, and strangely ill. There was a scene where Cotard, after receiving permission from his wife Adele, urinated in a sink while his wife and young daughter were both present in the room (present, but not watching). His urine appeared to be mostly blood yet he offered no reaction at all and simply carried on as if the absurd had become the expected. His sickness seemed to symbolize the loneliness that is concomitant with the very individuality necessary in order to qualify as an autonomous human being. If we die alone, are we in fact alone? Of course, this movie is about much more than that. No doubt, most of the criticism of this movie will be that it is far too ambitious. But what do we want? Do we want movies that only fit within our conventional range of pace, dialogue, boundaries, and cinematography? It seems that conventional movies will continue to appear with great frequency so, they will be readily available, but movies like Synecdoche are rare. Nevertheless, there were quite a few things that I did not like. While Phillip Seymour Hoffman very convincingly depicted the kind of leg tremors that might be caused by neuropathy, I found his enactment of a seizure to be so unconvincing that I actually laughed aloud. Interestingly enough, there was a gentleman one row up and about 10 seats to my right, who clearly did not like my idea of "funny". Although one got the strong impression that the gentleman expected everyone within 200 feet of him to "synchronize" with his idea of good comedic timing, as he outscored us all with his use of laughter aloud -- And that is one of the effects of the complexity of this film; that is, though this film might be easily regarded as "despairing", there were many funny moments where laughter erupted even while surrounded by loss and brokenness; just like real life. Sometimes, though, brilliance might not be brilliance; sometimes it just might be simple depravity disguised as something intellectual and modern. For example, while I love Tom Noonan's work in most everything he does, I did not like Kaufman's wording of his character's pitch to play Cotard. Obviously, this "play" is not a real play, but a montage of a construct that represents the mind, fears, and philosophies of Cotard. While I would prefer dialogue that allows for the existence of things like intellectualism, the intelligentsia, modernity, and the avant-garde without requirement for homosexual references, don't mistake my preference for a suggestion that anything should be changed in this movie. Since Cotard was not homosexual, parts of the movie seem to suggest it par for the course that all men somehow contend with homosexuality. This is not true. This is the movie that Charlie Kaufman wanted to make. No one can say that it should be anything other than what it is. I doubt that any of us will agree on much regarding this movie, as we don't agree on much regarding life.
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