Synecdoche New York - Movie Review

Synecdoche New York

Had Charlie Kaufman been left to his own devices Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would have been a very different experience. There would have been no happy endings for Joel and Clementine. Instead of bravely entering a relationship despite their troubled past, according to the original script the two would have been caught in a tragic loop where each participant continually erased the other from their past life. It may have been a haunting depiction of the human mind, but it would have been a distinct alienation of it's relationship to the lives of others. The film, because of this edit, retained the authors intended message, yet at the same time it uniquely delved into the concept of love and love's past. In a matter of equal importance, the audience was entertained. Synecdoche New York is a different kind of film. I just wondered if it had to be.

This round Charlie Kaufman takes the helm as both writer and director. This also gives him the freedom to take the role as philosopher, and in doing so the film is a resonating collection of worldviews concerning the life of man. Specifically, the two worldviews prominent are of existentialism and nihilism. These views are given life through the character of Caden Cotard, a playwright who attempts to construct his masterpiece as he begins to create a miniature New York within the confines of a warehouse. The city becomes intensely personal when the author finds that he himself is one of it's inhabitants. This inevitably leads to a Russian Doll situation of sorts, as the method actors used to portray Cotard begin to construct cities of their own in similar warehouses.

The universe Charlie Kaufman is responsible for is unnerving, if not downright surreal. It's apparent disregard for continuity, chronological order, or downright spacial awareness, is initially disorienting. Once it's fully accepted, it is accepted upon the grounds that the speaker is working towards a point.

Some will say that the problem with Synecdoche New York is that working towards this point is more work than it is an enjoyable experience. The film clocks in at a half an hour longer than it should. The characters perform more as shells meant to mirror reality rather than as individuals in a narrative context. The narrative itself is unwieldy.
I agree.

Synecdoche New York is film as "art," with quotation marks and everything. I hate it for that. It will no doubt be referenced by film majors around the world and be used in comparison to other films for no other purpose than to make themselves seem smarter.
At the same time there isn't a doubt in my mind that Synecdoche New York is at times also brilliant. I'm sure it's exactly what it's creator intended, and as such I understand how that creator views the world. I don't agree with him. I didn't feel good after watching what he does with his characters. I'm even pretty sure that I don't want to see it again. And I'm sure that's exactly what he wants.

So is it worth a viewing?
It's so different from anything else out there that it's hard not to look away, but for me it only added up to a shrug and a sigh. It's interesting, and serves as something great to look at, but the lack of conviction in regards to it's narrative makes it fail as a story. Go ahead and hang it up in a gallery. Give it a glance, but feel free to look away.

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