Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

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Robotron
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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#76 Post by Robotron » Thu Nov 27, 2008 7:10 am

It seems I'm apparently alone in this, but I thought it was an entertaining movie. It's as conceptually rich as anything else Kaufman has ever made, except for that abominably stupid shit pile that is Human Nature, as visually rich as anything Jonze could manage with Kaufman's scripts, and it's not nearly as incomprehensible a viewing experience for me as as it seems to be for everyone else, unless I'm misreading the criticisms. I think for the most part that it makes too much and is too simple (except for the occasional time/space jump and a few of the more subtle details that bring perspective into question), until the narrative reaches the point where the protagonist no longer directs his play, to be profound art, but is still a very noble and fun attempt.

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#77 Post by Antoine Doinel » Sun Dec 14, 2008 8:23 pm

Grand Illusion wrote:I'm glad I saw it. I enjoyed it. But I don't think I'd go back for seconds.
Yeah, I pretty much felt the same way. Kaufman's film, as an intellectual exercise, is satisfying, but for me, the emotional core was severely lacking making it a difficult film to wholly embrace. But I think the film's biggest flaw is that for all of Kaufman's narrative hula-hoops, the "messages" of the film (we are all insignificant, we are not defined by what we do, we have to be able to move forward, death is a natural part of life etc) is pretty simplistic and addressed with greater impact in other films.


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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#79 Post by knives » Sun Dec 14, 2008 9:16 pm

Hahaha, He's so awkward.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#80 Post by domino harvey » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:34 pm

DVD/Blu-ray March 10

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#81 Post by AWA » Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:20 am

Well I finally saw this, after it failed to come anywhere within reasonable traveling distance to my city. I'll probably get the DVD, but I'm thankful it's finally leaked online (shhh! :shock: )

It is a very compelling and yet very flawed film. As a big fan of Kaufman's, and taking into account the press he's been doing for this film in which he has stated he is entertaining thoughts of quitting the film industry all together, I couldn't help but feel that this was Kaufman completely "losing it" and chasing his tail in defiance of what time / emotion investment vs business investment in film projects / honest self expression vs allegorical public narrative really mean to him... and that this is the result of refusing mercy on one's self after being unable to come to any answers on any of those subjects. The whole film almost demands you to read it as partially autobiographical on the part of Kaufman, he looms over this like a mega-God, working through Caden and trying to make sense of life through his art by making his art into his life. I know it's a dangerous road to go down to start talking about the creator in the interpretation of the art itself, but I'm sort of approaching this backwards and sideways - I read the script last year when it leaked and have been following *all* the press for this film, which has clearly seen a shakey and uncomfortable Kaufman force himself into the rounds and rounds of pointless press and attempt to reduce this sprawling ambitious film to soundbites for public consumption. So my viewing of the film tonight, finally, comes with all the baggage of knowing what this film started out as on paper and what it became in the media's eyes after Kaufman had let go of it.

In one respect, I have great admiration that Kaufman was able to get something like this even made - you don't see too many films of this size and personal abstraction with some serious acting talents like PS Hoffman get made. This did and in years to come it may seem like an anomoly (of course - that was also said about Being John Malkovich, and that that film only got made after US Films went under after greenlighting it and no one was around to shut it down). But... I couldn't help but think that Kaufman needs an enemy here, someone to tell him "no" and to condense his ideas into something a little more "in focus" - for the Kaufman fans that know, this is what Malkovich would have been like without the rewritten ending with the monster puppets and new world order at the end, this is what Adaptation would've been with the Swamp Monster fiasco and what Eternal Sunshine would've been had the 50 years into the Future narrative been kept. This time Kaufman got to run with everything he had - the burning house, the warehouse in a warehouse in a warehouse, the sprawling self-referential narrative, the dream thought nightmares, the excesses to beget excess. It is interesting to finally get a Kaufman project fully realized to see what he would do if he had no leash (and I'm sure if he's reading this, and considering his numerous comments on message boards the past few months, that's a possibility, he might balk at the suggestion he was completely without "leash"). Considering the results though, I don't know if something like this would ever get funded again or, interpreting the film itself again as autobiographical, I seriously wonder if Kaufman has any more plans to write again.

That said - I'm wondering what people made of the film and it's ending. Is it possible that
SpoilerShow
the whole film was just Ellen's complex fantasy about coming to terms with her repressed homosexuality and that Caden was merely a vehicle for her fantasy to grasp at the idealized love she formed for famed artist Adele? In that she imagined herself as Adele's estranged husband and wanted to create something magnificent to win her back (and taking Caden's male identity to suit her sexuality) to experience what loving Adele might have been like... only to find that, even in her wildest of dreams, could she never actually come across the experience / memory / sensation of ever actually knowing what loving Adele might feel like because she wasn't Caden and couldn't possibly know? Of course, the "autobiographical" ramifications of what this might say about Charlie himself are somewhat curious, but I couldn't help but feel that was where the story ended up when it settled into blurring the sexual identities and roles at the end.
Also nice to see a film about the sexual longing and relationships of seniors. That might sound really strange and odd, but you don't see too much of that on the screen, especially in more "mainstream"/North American fare... nor anyone trying to be quite honest about it when you do... it's often treated as somewhat of a joke (About Schmidt?). A criticism I have (and I know others do as well) of Woody Allen is that he stopped writing about people his own age around the time of Deconstructing Harry / Celebrity in '97/'98 and has never gone back to confronting what life is like for himself and his friends as they enter into their senior years... considering Kaufman writes like Woody on a near lethal mix of steroids and amphetamines, I did find the rather honest and sincere portrayal of Caden in his senior years to be quite interesting.

Also - a great job with portraying how the passage of time goes by without ever really realizing it - the first time I think I've seen a film that made something out of the saying "where did the time go?". You really feel that helplessness that Caden must feel as a he realizes that it's "later than you think" (to quote another old phrase / song).

Overall, a great film but I couldn't help but wonder if Kaufman couldn't have made something better out of the first third of the movie. He could've made this entire movie about the Cotard family of Caden-Adele-Olive and I think it would've been just as rewarding without the meta-conceptual layering. I really hope that if Kaufman does decide to write again (or direct, for that matter), that he tries to write what (arguably) he appears to (possibly) have set out to do here in the first place - write a realistic, non-conceptual story about a man living life with all it's messy complexities, anxieties and dependency on the moods / whims/ desires of other people for purpose, meaning and "safety". I compared Kaufman to Woody previously, what I'm saying is I'd like to see Charlie try and write a "Husbands & Wives" type of film, without relying on the poetics of metaphors and conceptual quantum leaps. After seeing this film though, I think we're going to be lucky to see anything from Charlie for some time, if ever.

Eternal Sunshine is still the best Kaufman film... when I listen to the commentary between Kaufman and Gondry on that film, you get a small taste of the disdain Charlie had in making the compromises and even of what Gondry personally interpreted out of the script as a director... it was not hard at all to think that Charlie's next film would have him sitting in the director's chair after listening to that simmer under the surface. But I think a lot of Charlie's anxieties about the film industry can be simply addressed by him admitting that (necessary) compromises are just as much a part of the creative process as honest personal artistic ambition is. Eternal Sunshine is a vastly superior film because Charlie wasn't allowed to have it chase it's own tail around, it was cut down to size and made personable (partially by Gondry, who for my money has been unable to come anywhere close to that film's artistic success either).

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#82 Post by knives » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:57 am

There was suppose to be a swamp monster in adaptation? Why take it out?
Agree 100% on the Woody comparisons. Same sort of neurotic self imploring. I really would like to see where he would go from here if he gave himself the chance, but this is one hell of a swan song if nothing else.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#83 Post by AWA » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:17 pm

knives wrote:There was suppose to be a swamp monster in adaptation? Why take it out?
Agree 100% on the Woody comparisons. Same sort of neurotic self imploring. I really would like to see where he would go from here if he gave himself the chance, but this is one hell of a swan song if nothing else.
All of Charlie's film scripts feature some bizarre extravagant twists that are practically unshootable, usually at the ending. The end of Adaptation was far more bizarre than the completed version, and one of the reasons why the swamp monster was removed (along with the rest of the ending being radically altered) was one of the two conditions Robert McKee would allow his name to be used - 1)get rid of the swamp monster and change the ending and 2)give his character some redeeming qualities.

Being John Malkovich's original script, the one that got Charlie noticed (though the script was adored by everyone and passed around like a private book club, it was deemed completely unshootable because of the ending) features a battle royale between Derek Mantini as The Devil played by a six story Harry S. Truman puppet and Schwartz's Malkovich human puppet. And then the entire world falls into a new world order afterwards and all this stuff. Thing is, Kaufman apparently ***hated*** the compromised ending that got filmed, but clearly it is vastly superior and far more meaningful one.

Which leads me to believe that this time he got away with it as no one was around to tell him to condense it down to something more manageable and personable. It is quite the swan song if it is his last film though, but I think he has great potential that he's trying really hard to ignore by thinking conceptual ambition = great art or something. Kaufman's observations about life are just as meaningful and satisfying as his conceptual metaphor mind benders.

If you're at all interested in reading multiple drafts of Adaptation, BJM, Eternal Sunshine, Synecdoche or any of Kaufman's projects, be sure to head over to BeingCharlieKaufman.com where numerous drafts and older material can be found in the "Projects" sections. An invaluable resource of material.

Kaufman doesn't like admitting the Woody influence, but it is there - he staged Play It Again, Sam in his high school (even acting the Woody part). You could argue that his entire oeuvre could easily stem from the conceptual layout of Woody's play, one that playfully blurs the lines between fantasy and fiction. I also read somewhere that he only decided to do film for living upon seeing The Purple Rose Of Cairo in a theatre in NYC. Again, the Woody-isms of blending reality and fantasy, the literalized metaphors of Purple Rose would all become hallmarks of Kaufman's writing.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#84 Post by knives » Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:46 pm

While adaptations and BJM's present endings do seem better for their films, and maybe this is just my neurotic side showing, but I think the original ending to ESotSM is very fitting if way too blunt. This thread has reminded me I should rent Human nature just do to my completist nature.
I think Kaufman might actually be more comfortable in animation. Looking over those endings, especially BJM, the only way for them to work would be in animation. The distance seems to make it a more believable medium.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#85 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:44 am

With the death-obsession, hypochondria, and an inability to relate to women who remain quirky and mysterious -- Woody's thematic fingerprints are all over Synecdoche. It's even got New York in the title, even if it's a low-rent, upstate approximation of NYC. And Germany provides the other/alien location usually occupied by California in Woody flicks.

I thought the film was a fun, interesting ride.
All the world's a stage, Dostoevskian doppelgangers, the way we perform for the world and direct our lives. Lots of ideas cascading around -- personality, identity, life all up for grabs.
I think it will be an interesting film to re-watch.
Probably worthwhile to give a quick Wiki read on Cotard's Syndrome before a viewing.

Not everything worked for me.
I didn't care much for the conceits involving audio devices -- the translation scene with the daughter and the god-hearing aid at the conclusion. I also didn't have time to work through the symbolism with the house afire or the miniature portraits, though I connected the tiny artwork to the multitude of character notes, and maybe a search for the self, soul, meaning within our existence.

I didn't find it especially confusing, just sprawling and interesting. On a second viewing, I think I could focus more on the symbolism and the interactions between the doubles.
I loved the way that first Sammy and later Ellen sums Cotard up so succinctly that, despite their unlikely appearance, he immediately casts them to play himself.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#86 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 14, 2009 6:44 pm

I can't believe Rex Reed got it closest of all. From the focus on bodily functions to the constant parade of women lining up to schlep the artist, this has to be the most unchecked, repellently narcissistic film I've ever seen. Kaufman's hagiography of the artist falsely masquerades as commentary on the failure of art, but at all times reminds the viewer of the Real Artist at work here, Kaufman. A love letter to his own weirdness (or "brilliance" if you fall for this garbage), Kaufman constructs wall to wall novelty without realizing novelty must have something to be novel against. The narrative is cloudy, and I began to suspect more and more as the film progressed that this was the result of Kaufman's inability to work within traditional systems-- not by choice, but because he literally is incapable of even basic filmic concepts. Kaufman's alleged insights into art and life's achievements gleaned here are tiresome and have already been done better in films like Mr. Holland's Opus (a lousy picture, but infinitely superior and more successful than this one) and Atonement, among countless others. Synecdoche, New York is a career nadir for all involved, and as close to a cinematic one as I've seen in some time.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#87 Post by denti alligator » Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:48 pm

Maybe because of all the poor comments in this thread, I was suprised at how much I liked the film. Far superior to Adaption, which I hated.

I'm not sure it will hold up after a second viewing, but at least I'd like to see it again, which seems miles away from the responses of so many of you here.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#88 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Sun Mar 22, 2009 1:56 am

Every once in a while someone makes a film that is completely unlike anything else. David Lynch did it with INLAND EMPIRE, Stanley Kubrick did it with 2001, there are probably a hundred more examples out there, and Charlie Kaufman has done it with Synecdoche, New York (wow, I just realized the thread title has a typo).

My god! What a film.

I just saw this today, on Blu-ray and everything. It feels like a dream. One of those weird dreams where everything flows through time, and you're at once depressed and moved and uplifted when you awaken. Kaufman has said that it's up for interpretation, and I tend to take everything at mostly face value, so I'm hard to get onboard with the "Caden is in Sammy's play" idea. I did like the burning house, which I read as the danger of relationships (often at the edge of collapse) as well as life (often about to kill you). The whole movie really does feel like a dream.

It's been a while since I've been so profoundly moved by a film. Not only is it firmly established in my 2008 top ten, it's also in my all time top ten. A film this good should not exist, it's like a black hole, it's so good it should simply collapse in on itself.

Ebert's quote sums it up pretty well:

"This is a film with the richness of great fiction...it's not that you have to return to understand it. It's that you have to return to realize how fine it really is. The surface may daunt you. The depths enfold you. The whole reveals itself, and then you may return to it like a talisman."

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#89 Post by oldsheperd » Mon Mar 23, 2009 11:38 am

Saw this this weekend. While I thought it was a great film I don't think I'll be watching it again. Hits too close to home. Since I turned 30 I've been thinking about dying and insignificance.
I do like Ebert's idea that this film is esentially saying that every experience is a human experience and we all share similar lives.
I think I know but what was the deal with the burning house?

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#90 Post by HarryLong » Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:03 pm

what was the deal with the burning house?
There's a hint in the dialogue. "We all choose how we die." (I doubt I'm quoting exactly.)
I will be watching again if only because it seems to be afilm that needs to be seen more than once to pick up on everything that's going on.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#91 Post by Dylan » Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:58 pm

I still love Jon Brion's "Little Person" (which should've won the Oscar for Best Original Song), but even on hindsight my feelings about this film haven't changed, and while I enjoy AWA's analysis, I believe Domino comes closest to expressing my negative feelings toward this. There really is a great story in this mess about a closet homosexual (which is what Caden was in my opinion, the song "Little Person" emphasizing this by having a woman sing lyrics that are clearly coming from the character's mind, i.e. "miss my little kid and wife") who upon losing his wife and kid comes to terms with his conception of life and death by attempting to turn out the greatest and most ambitious work of live art in the history of the world, but Kaufman's own rules formulated for this completely and utterly fall into the depths of, to quote Mr. Harvery, repellent narcissism and either a refusal to or inability to express any single idea coherently, and an utterly failure to make the "incoherent" interesting or intellectually motivating.

Meanwhile, I really like Eternal Sunshine, but I feel Kaufman's original bookend narrative would've made it even better. There's also a lot more overt sexuality in the original screenplay (and possibly in another cut of the film, too) that I would've liked to have seen remain.

In my opinion, I find Terry Gilliam's Tideland , another film where a director finally granted with 110% freedom descends into near madness and incessant indulgence, a lot more interesting, but in the years since it's extremely limited run and subsequent improperly framed DVD it's disappeared into complete obscurity, not even gaining a tiny cult status.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#92 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:39 pm

Charlie Kaufman's prophecy of chaos?!?
Talk of disbanding the police, possible martial law for Schenectady, N.Y.
Okay so the details are fairly mundane.
So far, no reports of the population mysteriously doubling and tripling.
Rumors still unconfirmed about whether there exist multiple police chiefs of varying age and gender.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#93 Post by oldsheperd » Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:55 pm

I just thought it brought up a lot of good questions about the insignificance of life. The part where Diane Wiest's character comments on how the room will still exist and the shoes in the closet will still be there even when Caden dies is pretty interesting. The film seems to say a lot about perception. That human beings live a two dimensional life. That we see a man waiting for a bus or a woman in a bookstore and can't fathom that they have full lives outside of how we see them. They in essence are just characters in our lives. They only exist when they are in our sight or in our lives. But when they are not there they don't exist.
I think one of the poingnant scenes that proves this is when Caden runs into Hazel and finds that she has kids and is married. She has in essence not lived according to his characterization of her. She has her own life outside of what he made her up to be in his mind. And the fact that he doesn't realize how long it has been since he last saw her suggests that time is a matter of perception.
Just saying.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#94 Post by poussiere » Mon Mar 23, 2009 7:16 pm

Magic Hate Ball wrote:It's been a while since I've been so profoundly moved by a film. Not only is it firmly established in my 2008 top ten, it's also in my all time top ten. A film this good should not exist, it's like a black hole, it's so good it should simply collapse in on itself.
Me too! Some fragmented thoughts.

I think a rigorous distinction needs to be maintained between the film and Caden's project, between Synecdoche, New York and what, after Caden's final suggestion, we could call Infectious Diseases and Cattle. The latter does get a bit unruly, but I think purposefully so; my wife asked who allowed him to waste all that money after so many years; during another viewing (with her question in mind) I paused on the frame containing the MacArthur letter, which says something like, "Your award is offered based on previous accomplishments and is given without regard to future achievement." I don't disagree that perhaps his play gets the better of him, but the film itself is another story. I feel it is such a tightly and well-made movie that I have to offer something to help rebut the arguments that the film does not contain a single coherent idea.
SpoilerShow
Susan Sontag wrote that art is the simultaneous experience of singularity and voluptuousness and famously called for an erotics in place of a hermeneutics of art. But the experience of voluptuousness is already inseparable from singularity, or at least partiality (in full: "What a work of art does is to make us see or comprehend something singular, not judge or generalize. This act of comprehension accompanied by voluptuousness is the only valid end, and sole sufficient justification, of a work of art;" the "erotics of art" bit is the final division of "Against Interpretation". I don't like Sontag, but I think the quotation is appropriate here); for partiality — of both subject and object of desire — is the precondition for the feelings of both voluptuousness and loneliness. That Caden breaks down during intimate encounters with Hazel and Tammy suggests that he is creatively frustrated because he experiences partiality and loneliness instead of singularity and voluptuousness.

If we stop taking inventory of Caden's specific symptoms and refrain from attempting a diagnosis of any particular illness (including narcissism, for the urine stream of blood, the sykosis, the uncontrollable shaking — something is indeed violently taking hold of his body!), and in turn we consider Caden's illness itself as a symptom, it is a symptom of his own partiality. Illnesses are transient and are never believed to actually express the essence of a host. They are foreign invaders that corrupt the body; but the body being "whole", where do they come from? They are not then partial expressions of an illness as whole, but rather full expressions of the body's own partiality and consequent susceptibility to transmission of illnesses. Among species, we are generally most concerned with diseases being communicated, such as the avian flu found in Turkey (the country, not the bird) or, in general, "infectious diseases and cattle" (an animal with which humans have a very intimate relation, sometimes too intimate; I'm pointing at you, Ike Snopes!)

On their way home from the hospital, Caden and Adele explain plumbing to Olive by comparing the pipes in a house to the vessels and capillaries in the body, thereby creating a homology between house and body. Caden's descent into a life in which his body loses its autonomic functions is triggered by a breakdown in his house's plumbing system as he's shaving.

As for houses, when we see Hazel taking her first look at the house she will buy, live in and ultimately die in, it is unsettling to see her and the realtor wandering through a house that is literally on fire, even as it does not go unnoticed by them. When Hazel finally dies and it is attributed to smoke inhalation, we say, "Of course she did! Her house has always been on fire!" However, in the world of infinite and eternal substance — one in which synecdoche works, in which we can take a part for the whole with nothing left out — linear causality is reversed and it makes as much sense to say, "No, her house was always on fire because she died of smoke inhalation." (She did light candles the night she died; is that really a necessary move when your house is already a veritable candle?) Inversely, Adele will ultimately die of lung cancer; long before her voiceovers punctuated with coughing spells -- indeed, during her very first appearance on screen — she is already coughing into her sleeve.

This is, importantly, a reversal of linear causality, not of linear time. The "first day" of the movie, from Caden awakening to a discussion of Rilke's "Herbsttag" on the radio to his family's return from the hospital, actually covers all of the fall season; according to dates shown or heard on the radio, newspaper and milk carton the time elapsed during that day to be from the first day of fall to New Year's Eve. Time is indeed out of joint, but it is always linear and moving forward (which is why Ebert didn't trash it like he didn't Benjamin Button).
There's more, I think, but I'll leave it at that. If you've seen it only once, whether you like it or not, I highly recommend another viewing.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#95 Post by domino harvey » Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:31 pm

For the record, I never said the film didn't have a coherent idea. The film's ideas are tired and well-worn, but they're coherent enough to be entertained and summarily dismissed. My bone to pick is that narratively, it's incoherent-- not that it's hard to follow (for the most part it isn't), but that the film eschews conventional narrative causality, structures and pleasures, but for no good reason. The film is the equivalent amateur poets who jump right into free verse without learning structure. Ironically, there's no cadences of subtlety or understatement to be found in the elliptical structure, only a self-imposed and self-important esoteric drive born from the narcissistic belief on the part of Kaufman that whatever he deigns the public with is Good Enough. This indulgent mess is a filmed first draft, and shame on every producer involved who didn't speak up to that effect.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#96 Post by Michael » Sat Mar 28, 2009 9:52 am

chaddoli, Dylan, LQ and domino are spot on. Watched the film last night. Waste of time. The directing was terrible and embarrassing. What it felt to me, Kaufman attempted way too hard to be "serious" and that collapsed the whole film for me. I mean it was boring, I found myself wishing the film to center around Catherine Keener instead, she was far more interesting than anything else but unfortunately she was in the film too briefly.

Some reviews couldn't resist mentioning 8 1/2. Which is a shame though. If you removed the dialogues from both films, which one do you think would hold up better? Once I watched 8 1/2 without audio and subtitles, you would not believe all the new riches coming alive from the same world.

Watch the simarily themed All That Jazz instead.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#97 Post by knives » Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:52 pm

Most of the points against the film are probably true, but I do disagree with this one sentence:
Michael wrote: Kaufman attempted way too hard to be "serious"
It may be taking itself seriously, and that easily could be what you mean, but the film itself isn't serious at all. It constantly throws jokes, that may or may not succeed, and is fairly low brow for the first hour and a half or so. It really only attempts to be serious towards the end when Caden has given up, the last scene as far as my memory goes. The film almost presents itself as a art house Farrely Bros. movie. Serious is not a term I'd dare use.
Michael wrote: Watch the simarily themed All That Jazz instead.
Will do.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#98 Post by Michael » Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:21 pm

What I meant by "serious" is that the directing was very heavy-handed, I felt and the dialogues should have been a bit more subtle. The first 30 minutes was a nice set up, Catherine Keener was interesting, I wanted to know more about her but the film halted a big time after she moved to Germany. After that was a dull plateau slapped with tiring symbolism.

Believe me, I love "self-indugent" messy films, like 8 1/2 and INLAND EMPIRE. Those two feel very organic, natural, coming from pure intuition. I didn't get that from S,NY, everything about it felt forced and pasted on - one-dimensional.

All That Jazz is very similiar to S, NY in themes - a sick theater artist obsessed with death, making the final statement with beautiful women parading around him. But it's so much more electrifying, stirring and fun to watch.

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Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#99 Post by knives » Sat Mar 28, 2009 7:25 pm

Oh, I agree with that description of serious. It actually probably is a messy movie, I should watch it again now that it's out on DVD, but the first impression was a strong and positive one for me at least.

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poussiere
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:58 pm

Re: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

#100 Post by poussiere » Sat Mar 28, 2009 7:48 pm

Michael wrote:Believe me, I love "self-indulgent" messy films, like 8 1/2 and INLAND EMPIRE. Those two feel very organic, natural, coming from pure intuition.
I think you're right, because I too don't believe that Synecdoche, New York is coming from pure intuition — to an extent, anyway. That's definitely the kind of talk (or tweets) you're going to get out of Lynch these days, and I'm not up on whatever Fellini may have said of his creative impulses. But Kaufman's approach has more to do with thought than with feeling. I said "to an extent" above, however, because that does not mean that thought necessarily precludes feeling, that intellect precludes affect; I also disagree wholeheartedly with the implication that only affect can be intuited.

The notion that true art proceeds from passion, soul, feeling, etc., is commonplace enough and unavoidable. And I think, consequently, that most of the criticisms leveled at the film here can be better grasped as contentless euphemisms for the fact that Kaufman does not deploy his art from those sources. But I think he understands the risks, as at the beginning of the film, when the viewer is already invited to agree with the radio commentator that Rilke's poem is "depressing" or with the academic who says the poem is "beautiful."

Along those same lines, the film seems to anticipate every possible criticism and dismiss it just as easily as certain viewers will dismiss the tired and well-worn themes of the film. Adele is already the artist driven by the passion for originality, spontaneity, immediacy and all that crap, and accordingly tears down Caden after his performance the night after opening night for retreading all those plays by old dead people that have all been done before. So if you want to talk about competing concepts of art, it's just as easy to talk about the relationship between Adele and Caden as it is to compare this film to another.

Similarly, those predisposed to dismiss movies that are not expressions of originality, spontaneity, immediacy and all that crap (again) could take their cue and leave the theater or turn off the DVD when
SpoilerShow
Hope Davis makes her sudden departure from the film. As the therapist, she's tasked with rehabilitating Caden to the "here, here, now, now, here, now, touch my leg, regain your libido, how does that make you feel, etc., etc."; she does not fail so much as Caden realizes she's really no help to him because she's not some plenitude to his deficiency (though maybe Hazel is) as much as the difference between their worldviews, outlooks, whatever is fundamental, irreducible and unbridgeable.
At any rate, Michael, I'm not trying to be antagonistic, but I appreciate how your immediate response, more than any other critical response, allows for the identification of your position as critic of the film with a certain character in the film (Adele, in this case) and thereby allows for the critique to be carried out as commentary about the dynamics of the film rather than judgments about the film, if that makes sense. Otherwise, criticizing a film for what it is not is a prevalent but worthless exercise, though probably dating to the time when a young Greek child saw Oedipus Rex and afterwards asked his father why Oedipus did not just run away or never have sex with an older woman or never kill a man, etc.

And Domino, I'd almost agree with your statement that the "film is the equivalent of amateur poets who jump right into free verse without learning structure" if only you had said the reverse, that the film is the equivalent of an exercise in pure form or structure with little regard to content.

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