Monday, November 24, 2008

Synecdoche, New York

Charlie Kaufman is really throwing down the gauntlet with this. What a trip. While walking out of the theater, I heard someone say "that would of been really crazy if you were stoned.” It was crazy no matter what, but I agree- for with his directorial debut, Kaufman is examining the awkward and disturbing side of realization in a very surreal way. Among its many ideas, the movie centers on the role one plays in society and the storm we must weather in order to function and be accepted into the world around us. Illness, loneliness, and paranoia are on full display in Phillip Hoffmans character and he makes these feelings seem all too accessible. The film got under my skin a day or so after watching it, it made sleeping difficult because I knew it was raising questions I had to ponder. It is very cerebral and psychedelic- in the dark, lost-in-your-own mind sort of way- a la- personalities folding in on themselves and multiplying.

The story concerns theater director Caden Cotard. He gets a Macarthur grant allowing him to, without financial worries, create a theater piece that will be the culmination of his life’s work. He works on this play for the rest of his life, building a small replica of New York City in the process. He continually casts and recasts actors to play the people closest to him in his life, including himself. Along the way he re-enacts every major event in his life as it happens. 30 years into the project he is convinced to start acting. He takes on the role of his ex-wife’s cleaning lady, and it gets stranger from there.

The continual pulling back and re-shaping of perception is a re-occurring theme Kaufman has mastered- especially with this film. The ideas of Being John Malovich and Adaption are here but exploring more thoroughly. This is a film that will be probably be understood and appreciated over time, it may be too potently odd at this point in evolution. It tugs at a primal weirdness in all of us very successfully.

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