Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Went To Synecdoche NY

And all I got was this lousy blog post.


Seriously, the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman (writer: Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich) is going to be considered in one of two possible categories: a sprawling incoherent mess, or a brilliant work of cinema.

I will argue that it is a brilliant work of cinema for exactly the reason that it is a sprawling incoherent mess. It is trying to recapitulate all of the twists and turns of life, or at least life as seen through the eyes of a weepy hypochondriac playwright, Caden, who is wonderfully played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. His attempt to create an epic play in a Manhattan warehouse is a microcosm of life itself.

Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which a part of something stands for the whole or the whole for a part.

Exactly. Or inexactly to be more precise.

Possibly more convoluted than David Lynch's Inland Empire (talked about here), the constant shifts in the narrative might leave many viewers nauseated, which is a shame. Roger Ebert seems to get it. Too bad so many others do not.

The act of creation, or its attempt, is not talked about in many of the reviews I've read. Left adrift on the sea of life, the attempt by Caden to control his creation ultimately fails for the exact same reason that life is not a video game with a neat and tidy ending. But the attempt of control and creation, however messy the results, however Caden tries to treat his actors/characters as nothing more than puppets (notice how almost none of the cast and crew has a voice), is everything. Many times the character asks "what should I do?", as if somewhere offstage is a director with script in hand ready to jump in with a line. But life is not like that. Funny that the sprawling play Caden envisions is an attempt to create that control, exerted in that microcosm, and that it too ultimately fails.

I think I will have to see this one again.

On a tangent, I wonder if Kaufman would be better off in animation instead, completely unconstrained, or whether the constraint of reality is a necessity.

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