Sydnecdoche, New York reviews

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Damien
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Postby Damien » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:47 am

dws1982 wrote:Saw this tonight.

If Kauffman's gonna start directing his own films, I'm gonna be skipping them from now on. Life's too short.

Agree. Although I may just start skipping any movie with his name in the credits.

Recommended for Damien's Sominex, Dramamine, Morphine, Valium, Neurontin, and Olanzapine Awards.

There was no way I was going to subject myself to this thing. Glad to know from your reaction, Daniel, that my instincts were right. And my sympathies to you and Okri for having sat through it. The stupid title tells you all you need to know about how smugly self-satisfied Kauffman is with his own "cleverness."
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Postby dws1982 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:40 pm

Saw this tonight.

If Kauffman's gonna start directing his own films, I'm gonna be skipping them from now on. Life's too short.

Agree. Although I may just start skipping any movie with his name in the credits.

Recommended for Damien's Sominex, Dramamine, Morphine, Valium, Neurontin, and Olanzapine Awards.

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Postby Okri » Sat Mar 14, 2009 9:23 pm

I loathe this film with every fiber of my being. It's the closest I've come to leaving a film early, and boy, do I wish I had. If Kauffman's gonna start directing his own films, I'm gonna be skipping them from now on. Life's too short.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Mar 14, 2009 9:00 pm

I liked Being John Malkovich, loathed Adaptation and was prepared to equally hate this film, but found it oddly compelling despite all its meandering.

The complex character actually suits Philip Seymour Hoffman in what is easily his best screen performance and Samantha Morton simply gets better with every film. I also enjoyed Emily Watson's performance as the "stage" version of Morton's character.
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Postby Sabin » Wed Nov 19, 2008 9:46 pm

I've seen 'Synecdoche, New York' again and it breezed right by this time. I'm still very much of two minds about it. I'm still not convinced that the overly brisk pacing of scenes that careen through an entire lifetime at breakneck speed (which admittedly creates as unnerving a sensation as many narratives I've encountered) deserves any form of praise for directing; as a director, it doesn't seem like Charlie Kaufman makes any choices beyond the script itself, yet said-unnerving narrative is for me is at once the screenwriter's maddeningly ambiguous and terrifying coup since coming to the forefront a decade ago. Were the project to be filtered through the sensibilities of Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry, it might serve as some form of betrayal to what is essentially an incredibly indulgent coup of pushing the fast forward button on obsession and mortality.

Credit Film Editor Robert Frazen for making sense of this overreaching act of masturbation and everyone involved for streamlining Kaufman's vision. Much as in life, what starts as one film (an intriguingly mundane portrait of a sad sack whose wife and child leave him, is plagued by myriad illnesses, and embarks on a quest to make a mark on the world) quickly becomes another, leading up to an epilogue where he is but a player on the stage he has spent a lifetime of energy creating, as a director is resigned to life as a maid, and a maid is reborn reciprocally. 'Synecdoche, New York' is unlike anything I've seen in a while and achieves a kind of greatness in the corner it has buried itself in. It makes some tonal errors in undercutting the initial date between Hoffman and Morton and in Morton's house always being aflame, and I've no doubt that the reported three to four hour cut of this madness clears much of that up, but what we have right here is a rather astonishing thing to behold. I'm still not convinced of merit, but it's visceral experience and one I won't forget.
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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:47 pm

Found eNw I Synecdoche incomprehensible, korY.

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Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:47 pm

My problem with Samantha Morton, who is lovely, is that I don't think that the weight of her time-spanning tryst with Hoffman is given proper onus at the onset so the weight of what follows feels weirdly understated. Contrast with the magical extended prologue that began 'Eternal Sunshine'. Kaufman is perhaps a little too eager to keep us on the same apathetic wavelength as Caden.

It's playing in Los Angeles for only another week. I'm going to try to see it again but I find the damn thing maddening. I haven't been so actively wrapping my brain around a film's narrative since 'The Dark Knight' but just like that film I was so acutely aware of what I was watching that I never really succumbed emotionally, and I'm deeply concerned that it's a bit too up its own ass...but by the same token, does that invalidate it?
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:32 pm

I haven't collected my thoughts on Synecdoche, New York quite yet, but I will say that I thought Samantha Morton was positively luminescent as Hazel. Easily, the best part of the film for me.



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Postby Sabin » Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:31 pm

Roger Ebert (like fifty other movies this year) gives it four stars. He also has written quite the non-review. There honestly isn't much reason to read this review. It's not about anything. Am I the only one here who's seen this fucking thing?


SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK - ****

I think you have to see Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" twice. I watched it the first time and knew it was a great film and that I had not mastered it. The second time because I needed to. The third time because I will want to. It will open to confused audiences and live indefinitely. A lot of people these days don't even go to a movie once. There are alternatives. It doesn't have to be the movies, but we must somehow dream. If we don't "go to the movies" in any form, our minds wither and sicken.

This is a film with the richness of great fiction. Like Suttree, the Cormac McCarthy novel I'm always mentioning, 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.

Wow, is that ever not a "money review." Why will people hurry along to what they expect to be trash, when they're afraid of a film they think may be good? The subject of "Synecdoche, New York" is nothing less than human life and how it works. Using a neurotic theater director from upstate New York, it encompasses every life and how it copes and fails. Think about it a little and, my god, it's about you. Whoever you are.

Here is how life is supposed to work. We come out of ourselves and unfold into the world. We try to realize our desires. We fold back into ourselves, and then we die. "Synecdoche, New York" follows a life that ages from about 40 to 80 on that scale. Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theater director, with all of the hangups and self-pity, all the grandiosity and sniffles, all the arrogance and fear, typical of his job. In other words, he could be me. He could be you. He could be Joe the Plumber. The job, the name, the race, the gender, the environment, all change. The human remains pretty much the same.

Here is how it happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.

In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree. We succumb to temptation -- but, oh, father, what else was I gonna do? I feel like hell. I repent. I'll do it again.

Hold that trajectory in mind and let it interact with age, discouragement, greater wisdom and more uncertainty. You will understand what "Synecdoche, New York" is trying to say about the life of Caden Cotard and the lives in his lives. Charlie Kaufman is one of the few truly important writers to make screenplays his medium. David Mamet is another. That is not the same as a great writer (Faulkner, Pinter, Cocteau) who writes screenplays. Kaufman is writing in the upper reaches with Bergman. Now for the first time he directs.

It is obvious that he has only one subject, the mind, and only one plot, how the mind negotiates with reality, fantasy, hallucination, desire and dreams. "Being John Malkovich." "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." "Adaptation." "Human Nature." "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." What else are they about? He is working in plain view. In one film, people go inside the head of John Malkovich. In another, a writer has a twin who does what he cannot do. In another, a game show host is, or thinks he is, an international spy. In "Human Nature," a man whose childhood was shaped by domineering parents trains white mice to sit down at a tiny table and always employ the right silverware. Is behavior learned or enforced?

"Synecdoche, New York" is not a film about the theater, although it looks like one. A theater director is an ideal character for representing the role Kaufman thinks we all play. The magnificent sets, which stack independent rooms on top of one another, are the compartments we assign to our life's enterprises. The actors are the people in roles we cast from our point of view. Some of them play doubles assigned to do what there's not world enough and time for. They have a way of acting independently, in violation of instructions. They try to control their own projections. Meanwhile, the source of all this activity grows older and tired, sick and despairing. Is this real or a dream? The world is but a stage, and we are mere actors upon it. It's all a play. The play is real.

This has not been a conventional review. There is no need to name the characters, name the actors, assign adjectives to their acting. Look at who is in this cast. You know what I think of them. This film must not have seemed strange to them. It's what they do all day, especially waiting around for the director to make up his mind.

What does the title mean? It means it's the title. Get over it.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:02 pm

This is turning into the Love It/Hate it movie of the year. One thing is for sure: the film is inspiring some very fierce partisans who are heralding it just as much as others are downright loathing it.

Here's a review from Owen Gleiberman whom I must say lately has been bringing it as a reviewer with some scathing dismissals. This one is a little to pat for me, but...




From Entertainment Weekly
OWEN GLEIBERMAN - D+
It's a hallowed ritual of film culture. An artist makes a movie that is so labyrinthine and obscure, such a road map of blind alleys, such a turgid challenge to sit through that it sends most people skulking out of the theater — except, that is, for a cadre of eggheads who hail the work as a visionary achievement. It happened in 1961, with that high-society puzzle obscura Last Year at Marienbad, and in 2006, with David Lynch's through-the-looking-glass bore Inland Empire. Now Charlie Kaufman, the brain-tickling screenwriter of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has directed his first movie, Synecdoche, New York (he also wrote it), and yes, it is one of those ''visionary'' what-the-hell doozies. Prepare to be told that it's a masterpiece.

For 45 minutes or so, Kaufman unveils the odd but watchable tale of Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a theater director in Schenectady, N.Y., whose life turns darkly surreal. His wife (Catherine Keener) leaves him, taking their daughter, and he develops a degenerative illness as serious as it is vague (pustules, fading eyesight, premature aging). He's like Woody Allen trapped in a Debbie Downer nightmare. But that's the fun part. In the second half, Caden stages his life as a play, gathering a cast of actors who merge (sort of) with their roles. As they do, Caden adds more and more layers to his theatrical experiment, until he's watching himself watch the actors play characters who are observing themselves. Or something. I gave up making heads or tails of Synecdoche, New York, but I did get one message: The compulsion to stand outside of one's life and observe it to this degree isn't the mechanism of art — it's the structure of psychosis.


(INCIDENTALLY - I just watched 'Last Year at Marienbad' for the first time two weeks ago and thought it was so fascinating to think about what every directing choice Alain Resnais was using to playfully lead us into the entrance/exit-less maze he was constructing, that I could not get into this movie. It's formally audacious and I was completely transfixed by what Resnais was doing to comment while lead, but my God did I not care what happened. I don't think I'm supposed to; ultimately, I think I have little use for it outside of examination.)



From Lessons in Darkness...
NICK SCHAGER - A-

Synecdoche, New York may commence with the drab realism of an Arthur Miller play – such as, say, Death of a Salesman, the production being staged by perpetually glum regional-theater playwright Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – but since this is the directorial debut of mad genius screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the film soon reveals its true nature as a vortex of meta-psychoanalysis that extends outward from its mopey Kaufman-proxy protagonist to encapsulate humanity at large. An exhilarating authorial confession of loneliness, regret, misery, fear of death and illness, self-doubt, time, space and all other concerns under the moon and stars, it’s the story of man wracked by external pustules and internal maladies. Limited its aims most certainly are not, a sad-sack fictionalized profile that takes a leap down the rabbit hole and morphs – like all of Kaufman’s scripts, a point articulated by Caden’s early, knowing question, “Why do I always make it so complicated?” – into a morosely self-aware funhouse of foibles, hang-ups and the (potentially futile) search for comprehension of one’s inherently twisted, contradictory nature through artistic invention.

Obsessed with decay (his own, his career’s, his marriage’s), hypochondriac Caden is left by his successful painter wife Adele (a physically and emotionally disheveled Catherine Keener), who absconds to Berlin with their daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein). This abandonment is, for the always glass-half-empty Caden, both a case of worst fears realized and self-fulfilling prophecy. And almost instantaneously, it instigates a descent into chronology-obliterating solipsistic madness in which Caden – the beneficiary of a financially lucrative MacArthur grant – rents a zeppelin-sized warehouse and, while Adele is away (for a week? A year?) begins staging a play about his life that grows into a play about everyone’s life, with the set itself expanding into a miniature metropolis whose buildings and people are constantly being fictionally duplicated. Starting with Sammy (the great Tom Noonan), a man who’s been stalking Caden and is then hired to play him in the show, doppelgängers (and doppelgängers of doppelgängers) soon proliferate, as do edifices, with warehouses built within warehouses and Caden’s real-life abodes reconstructed as performance venues, a spiraling sequence of repetitions akin to the infinite doubling effect produced when two mirrors face each other.

It’s Kaufman’s uncompromisingly dreary 8 ½, replete with a bevy of romantic interests led by a box office clerk who lives in a perpetually on-fire house (the winningly flirty Samantha Morton), a fetching, smitten leading lady (Michelle Williams) as well as, in the film’s typically head-spinning circular fashion, the actresses hired to play those women. Scored to Jon Brion’s agonizingly tender musical theme, which exudes desolate melancholy over things (love, bodies, opportunities) destroyed by time, Synecdoche, New York – its titular locale’s name a reference to a thing that stands in for a larger whole – is a magnificently sprawling puzzle of a Kaufman self-portrait, an uninhibited navel-gazing work of relentless wry glumness. Yet if the film’s general absence of tonal modulation and oppressively bleak aesthetic underscore how responsible Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) were for providing prior Kaufman efforts with their light, effervescent touches, its dour, intricate struggle with issues of identity, art, and personal/professional satisfaction nonetheless feels like the “brutal truth” Caden is striving for through his own burgeoning, comprehensive opus.

The same holds true for Hoffman’s performance, a one-note expression of miasmatic neurosis that begins as a fairly conventional fictional conceit, but eventually locates an honesty – about lack of certainty, about confused desire, about the enlivening and deadening consequences of everyday and artistic narcissism – that’s acutely raw and severe. Synecdoche, New York may be epitomized by an early scene of Caden intently investigating his own bloody stool, a gaze into an ugly abyss of anxieties and phobias, and it’s unabashedly indulgent narrative ultimately leads to nothing less than a (somehow simultaneously literal and figurative) apocalypse that’s still not enough to quell its protagonist’s desire for creative self-analytic reinvention. Yet Kaufman’s meta-meta mind-boggler is, ultimately, far more heady and haunting than maddeningly egocentric, typified by an elderly Caden’s conversation with a dying, adult Olive (Robin Weigert), during which her demand that he admit to a phony homosexual affair lands with an overly scripted thud that’s redeemed, with piercing poignancy, by the subsequently mournful image of one of her flower tattoos falling, withered, from her lifeless arm.




From New York Press
ARMOND WHITE
ALTERED EGO
Charlie Kaufman turns to Philip Seymour Hoffman to tackle his neuroses

By Armond White

Synecdoche, New York
Directed by Charlie Kaufman
Running Time: 124 min.

One has not truly suffered as a moviegoer until seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman perform a seizure in Synecdoche, New York. This freak-out has nothing to do with art and more to do with career promotion: Our cultural gatekeepers have rushed to crown ham-actor Hoffman King of the Ugly and Obvious Art Movie. And Charlie Kaufman’s been dubbed a genius ever since he wrote the preternaturally clever gimmick movie Being John Malkovich. Now Kaufman’s been commissioned to make his own weird directorial debut, starring the unctuous Hoffman as his latest disgusting alter ego. It is as close to an abomination as 2008 cinema needs to come.

Entirely too “clever”—filled with half-ideas—this story about upstate New York theater director Caden Cotard (Hoffman) parades all of Kaufman’s neuroses: sexual frustration, creative surfeit (not a creative block), body hatred and celebrity paranoia. What’s missing is universality; that’s swallowed up by Kaufman’s intellectual egomania. Caden goes from re-staging Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as a yuppie’s geriatric nightmare performed by twenty-somethings to mounting big-budget surrealistic art movies on a mammoth soundstage. This advertises Kaufman’s distance from Miller’s sentimentality while congratulating hipsters for their cynical whimsy—and their ignorance of Fellini’s 8 1/2. In Synedoche, Kaufman has been afforded a privilege he doesn’t deserve; his unimaginative imagery never comes close to the magnificence that visionary director John Moore creates in the turbulent tableaux of Max Payne. (?!?!?!)

Kaufman’s artiness ignores political reality—further congratulating hipsters who prefer Todd Haynes–style narcissism to Todd Solondz’s humane sociological explorations (Kaufman imitates both). This is exactly the overboard pomposity Kaufman threatened in his first scripts, Malkovich and Human Nature. Passing off egghead neurasthenia as genius, Kaufman makes Caden so convinced he’s dying that in addition to seizures, he breaks out in sores. It’s even suggested that Caden’s divorce from Catherine Keener is a projection of his own death wish—like the male/female, young/old doppelganger characters who hound and perplex him. When Kaufman delivers Caden’s final, bleak message—“Everyone is everyone. You’re Ellen and all her meager sadness”—I longed for the days when a Woody Allen character “made a meager living selling meagers.”

Pity those nerds and fashion-sheep who'll waste time trying to connect Kaufman’s symbols, cite the many David Lynch references and puzzle for ways to use “synecdoche” in daily conversation. Also pity the very good actresses—Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson, Samantha Morton and Dianne Wiest—who Kaufman convinced to appear dumpy and repulsive. They also had to work with Le Hoffman.




...and the lovely MANHOLA DARGIS

Dreamer, Live in the Here and Now

By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: October 24, 2008
To say that Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” is one of the best films of the year or even one closest to my heart is such a pathetic response to its soaring ambition that I might as well pack it in right now. That at least would be an appropriate response to a film about failure, about the struggle to make your mark in a world filled with people who are more gifted, beautiful, glamorous and desirable than the rest of us — we who are crippled by narcissistic inadequacy, yes, of course, but also by real horror, by zits, flab and the cancer that we know (we know!) is eating away at us and leaving us no choice but to lie down and die.

Yet since this is a review of a new Charlie Kaufman work, perhaps I should hit rewind: “Synecdoche, New York” is the first film directed by the writer of such unlikely Hollywood entertainments as “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” a romance of such delicate feeling that it’s still a shock that it carries a studio brand. Mr. Kaufman’s kinked, playful screenplays are usually accompanied by a flurry of “e” adjectives: eclectic, eccentric, edgy, eggheady. (Also: quirky.) That’s true only if you consider the contemporary American screen, with its talking Chihuahuas and adult male babies with mother fixations. Come to think of it, the main character in “Synecdoche” has a thing about poop and bosomy women, though happily not at the same time.

To continue, despite my agonizing self-consciousness: “Synecdoche” is the story of a theater director, Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman, exhaling despair with every breath), miserably married to a talented painter, Adele Lack (Catherine Keener). The two live in Schenectady, N.Y., with their 4-year-old, Olive (Sadie Goldstein), who, when the story opens, is casually evacuating radioactive-green feces. Neither Caden nor Adele is alarmed, so intensely are they wrapped up in a depressive melancholia they seem to have nurtured longer than their daughter. Even couples therapy (with Hope Davis, in a dazzling brief turn) brings out the worst in them. “Can I say something awful?,” Adele asks (as if she needed permission), before confessing that she fantasized Caden dying. Which made her happy.

Caden lives with Adele and Olive in a “fragile-seeming home,” which is true even if those particular words were written by Arthur Miller, who uses them to describe Willy Loman’s home. As it happens, Caden is directing “Death of a Salesman,” but with a twist: the actors (including Michelle Williams), are all young. The tragedy of the play, explains Caden, will emerge from the casting: the audience will see the young actors and know that, in time, they will end up every bit as crushed as Willy. In “Salesman,” Miller writes that an air of the dream clings to Willy’s home, “a dream rising out of reality.” Mr. Kaufman doesn’t directly quote these words, yet they hover over the film nonetheless.

“Salesman” is a smash, but everything else falls to smithereens. Adele, who smirks through the play and asks Caden why he’s wasting himself on other people’s work, takes Olive to Berlin for a show that will make the painter a star. Caden stays behind, worrying the sores that have sprouted on his body and watching a pharmaceutical commercial in which he appears to play a part. Is he delusional? Dreaming? Before you have time to reach for Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams,” he wins a MacArthur Award, a so-called genius grant, and begins work on a monumental theater production. I want, he tells his therapist with baleful sincerity, to create something “big and true and tough. You know, finally put my real self into something.”

He succeeds in doing the first (the big, the true, the tough); it’s the self part that proves trickier. Among many, many other things, “Synecdoche, New York” is about authenticity, including the search for an authentic self in an inauthentic world. For Caden, creating something that will justify the genius award, which will quiet Adele’s mocking criticism and his own restless doubt, becomes all-consuming. Inside a fantastically, impossibly enormous warehouse, he begins rehearsing with dozens and then hundreds, thousands, of actors, directing them in separate lifelike vignettes. Ms. Williams’s Claire, the adoring young woman who earlier played Willy Loman’s wife, joins the new cast and soon marries Caden, Adele having abandoned that role. (“I’m famous!” Adele blurts out to Caden on the phone from Berlin before hanging up.)

There’s more — including Samantha Morton as Hazel, Caden’s sweetest of sweethearts — so much more that you would need to recreate the film in its entirety to get it all in, which is precisely Caden’s own tactic. Inside the warehouse, he builds a replica of his world line by line, actor by actor, until fiction and nonfiction blur. Like the full-scale map in Borges’s short story “On Exactitude in Science,” the representation takes on the dimensions of reality to the point of replacing it. The French theorist Jean Baudrillard uses Borges’s story as a metaphor for his notion of the simulacrum, which probably explains why Caden, who has trouble naming things, considers titling his production “Simulacrum.” I don’t even know what that means, sighs Hazel.

You may giggle knowingly at that line, but the poignancy of this exchange is that Caden, who is so busy creating one world that he forgets to live in another, doesn’t seem to really understand what it means either. Mr. Kaufman rarely stops to explain himself, but like that simulacrum aside, he continually hints at what he’s up to, where he’s going and why. (Even Caden’s last name is a clue as to what ails him.) Mr. Kaufman is serious about seriousness, but he’s also serious about being funny, so he drops heavy weight (Kafka, Dostoyevsky) lightly, at times comically, and keeps the jokes, wordplay and sight gags coming amid the on- and offstage dramas, divorces, births, calamities, the fear and the sickness and the trembling.

Despite its slippery way with time and space and narrative and Mr. Kaufman’s controlled grasp of the medium, “Synecdoche, New York” is as much a cry from the heart as it is an assertion of creative consciousness. It’s extravagantly conceptual but also tethered to the here and now, which is why, for all its flights of fancy, worlds within worlds and agonies upon agonies, it comes down hard for living in the world with real, breathing, embracing bodies pressed against other bodies. To be here now, alive in the world as it is rather than as we imagine it to be, seems a terribly simple idea, yet it’s also the only idea worth the fuss, the anxiety of influence and all the messy rest, a lesson hard won for Caden. Life is a dream, but only for sleepers.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:16 pm

I have had Synecdoche, New York's preview up for at least two weeks. I would like to encourage people to link to my site whenever possible.
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Oct 06, 2008 6:35 pm

"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Postby Damien » Fri May 23, 2008 8:40 pm

Charlie Kaufman plus Philip Seymour Blob? Ummm, no thanks . . .



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Postby Sabin » Fri May 23, 2008 7:08 pm

I saw a clip of 'Sydnecdoche, New York' at this address...

http://www.commeaucinema.com/bandes-annonces=73742-video-11769.html

I won't lie: as somebody more known among his peers for writing than directing, I loathe the prospect of watching this film, watching it fail or succeed on its own terms. Different directors filter Kaufman through their sensibilities. Spike Jonze played it down and turned 'Being John Malkovich' into the most mundane mind-fuck I've ever seen; and in compensatory fashion, he actually played up the anxiety in 'Adaptation.' making it into more of a point-and-click experience of overload. Even more point-and-click was Clooney who jettisoned a lot of Kaufman's script (I've read all of his published work and there's always twenty pages of stuff that is cut; with 'Confessions', half of the script is unrecognizable from the finished result -- and that is a good thing) for a more visual and visceral end product, a work more rooted in fizzy homage than genuine case study. I think Clooney's decision was smart.

'Human Nature' feels flat, mainly I think because Kaufman isn't really exploring anything, merely setting up dominos. It has some lovely effects and some good performances but it doesn't go anywhere beyond its central conceit which is the neatest of Kaufman's career. On the other hand: 'Eternal Sunshine' which is a dazzling visual experience that is a clearly collaborative experience with Kaufman's initial science-fiction blocking device jettisoned. On the page, the idea of Clementine and Joel erasing each other for decades is amazing but the film's current state has a perfection that otherwise would be overreaching.

This will be the first time all of Charlie Kaufman's thoughts will be on film, Malkovich tumbling into his own head while Malkovich films it. I really hope it's good.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Precious Doll » Fri May 23, 2008 6:01 pm

Charlie Kaufman's 'Synecdoche, New York,' is a wildly ambitious and gravely serious contemplation of life, love, art, human decay and death.

A Likely Story/Projective Testing Service/Russia, Inc./Sidney Kimmel Entertainment presentation. (International sales: Kimmel Intl., New York.) Produced by Anthony Bregman, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jones, Kimmell. Executive producers, William Horberg, Bruce Toll, Ray Angelic. Directed, written by Charlie Kaufman.

Caden Cotard - Philip Seymour Hoffman
Hazal - Samantha Morton
Claire Keen - Michelle Williams
Adele Lack - Catherine Keener
Tammy - Emily Watson
Ellen Bascomb/Millicent Weems - Dianne Wiest
Maria - Jennifer Jason Leigh
Madeleine Gravis - Hope Davis
Sammy Barnathan - Tom Noonan
Olive (age 4) - Sadie Goldstein
Olive (adult) - Robin Weigert

By TODD MCCARTHY

Like an anxious artist afraid he may not get another chance, Charlie Kaufman tries to Say It All in his directorial debut, "Synecdoche, New York." A wildly ambitious and gravely serious contemplation of life, love, art, human decay and death, the film bears Kaufman's scripting fingerprints in its structural trickery and multi-plane storytelling. At its core a study of a theater director whose life goes off the rails into uncharted artistic territory, it's the sort of work that on its face appears overreaching and isn't entirely digestible on one viewing. As such, it will intrigue Kaufman's most loyal fans but put off fair-weather friends on the art house circuit, where a venturesome distrib will have its work cut out for it to move the film commercially beyond cult status.

Unusually for a first film, the strangely titled opus feels more like a summation work, such as "8 ½" or especially "All That Jazz," as it centers on an artist who battles creeping infirmity and deathly portents by plunging into a grandiose project. On the most superficial level, many viewers will be nauseated by the many explicit manifestations of physical malfunction, bodily fluids, bleeding and deterioration. A larger issue will be the film's developing spin into realms that can most charitably be described as ambiguous and more derisively will be regarded as obscuritanist and incomprehensible.

At the same time, the picture exerts sufficient power and artistic mystery to pull the willing a fair way down its twisty trail, and a first-rate cast led by Philip Seymour Hoffman and some wonderful women provide a constant lifeline even when it's hard to know what's going on.

For such serious and accomplished artists, Caden Cotard (Hoffman) and Adele Lack (Catherine Keener) live in surprisingly mundane and physically cramped circumstances in upstate Schenectady, New York. Caden, who directs a local theater company, and Adele, an adventurous painter, co-exist in a marginal way but seem mentally and emotionally preoccupied with their individual problems, an impression confirmed when Adele tells Caden to stay home while she and their little daughter fly off to Berlin, where she's having a major gallery opening.

Even before her departure, Caden has begun suffering from a litany of physical maladies as well as the realization that his directing work of others' plays allows him no room for genuine personal expression. At least Adele's departure would seem to open the door to Caden's consummation of a strong attraction between him and comely box-office worker Hazel (a curly red-haired Samantha Morton), who, in one early indication of oddities to come, purchases and soon occupies a house that's burning and full of smoke.

After Caden's disabilities worsen and things don't go awry with Hazel, the action explicitly jumps ahead to 2009, when he wins a MacArthur Grant and decides to undertake a theatrical venture in which an increasingly massive number of players will act, or reenact, life as Caden sees it in a freshly constructed replica of Manhattan under the big top of an enormous warehouse.

Yarn's multiple layers begin incrementally manifesting themselves at this stage. It would be folly to pretend that someone watching it all for the first time could innumerate, or even keep track of, every strand of Kaufman's doubling process, or make entirely coherent sense out of the life-versus-art, life-as-art, or art-instead-of-life postulations that come into play in the second half; viewers' reactions will vary to a great extent upon how far they're able to go with the writer-director before either giving up or giving in to his neurotic flights of fancy.

Without revealing too much, it can be said that Caden eventually casts an oddball actor (Tom Noonan), who's tall and thin rather than squat, to play himself in the evolving epic, and, as the Hazel equivalent, chooses an actress (Emily Watson) who's a near-lookalike. Emotional lines become crossed among these four, with both agreeable and dire results, but a through-line of worry, despair, loneliness and overriding unhappiness is provided by Caden and the fates of those in the tightest orbits around him. Characters age, mutate and transform themselves as Caden, who tells his cast he wants nothing from them but "the brutal truth," tries to play God but is done in at every turn by the simple fact that he's not cut out for the part.

Despite the general air of unpleasantness and anxiety, and the general feeling that the film, like Caden, could explode from overloaded circuits at any moment, Kaufman's venturesome dramaturgy and compelling writing scene-by-scene are enough to keep one's curiosity piqued. Significantly crushed by illnesses, the drudgery of life and his failures with women, Caden doesn't seem like the genius he sees himself as, and the inspiration triggered by the sudden blessing of complete artistic freedom may also be only a figment of his imagination. Whatever the case, Hoffman embodies him completely, forcing the audience to share his every physical and emotional wound.

Along from Keener as his moody, impulsive wife, who takes off early on, the other actresses shine as the women who both appreciate and tolerate Caden. Morton captivates as the adoring associate the director loves most, and Watson provides an ideal alter ego. Michelle Williams warmly shades the role of the theater's company's leading actress, cast as Caden's wife in the theater piece; Hope Davis (who could play Hillary Clinton when anyone decides to do that film) sharply etches Caden's blunt shrink; Jennifer Jason Leigh disappears into a German accent in a very strange role, and Dianne Wiest comes aboard as a late addition to the New York project.

Working with vet lenser Fred Elmes, Kaufman tends to keep his frames tight, provoking a claustrophobic feel that matches Caden's usual psychological state. Production values come to the fore as the "set" for the ongoing theater project takes shape with evocative verisimilitude, with production designer Mark Friedberg and visual effects supervisor Mark Russell and an extensive effects team earning good marks. The

long arcs of Jon Brion's score go the extra mile to provide emotional continuity to the sometimes quickly changing scenes.

Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen), Fred Elmes; editor, Robert Frazen; music, Jon Brion; music supervisor, Bonnie Greenberg; production designer, Mark Friedberg; art director, Adam Stockhausen; costume designer, Melissa Toth; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Drew Kunin; supervising sound editor, Philip Stockton; visual effects supervisor, Mark Russell; visual effects, Brainstorm Digital; re-recording mixer, Reilly Steele; assistant director, H.H. Cooper; casting, Jeanne McCarthy. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 23, 2008. Running time: 124 MIN.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.


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