Reviews

Synecdoche, New York

4

Kaufman is on fire…

“I don’t know why I make it so complicated!” mumbles theatre director Caden Cotard as he fumbles through a production of Death Of A Salesman.

You could say the same of Charlie Kaufman, the Oscar-winning writer whose directing debut is so complex it makes Eternal Sunshine look like Fast & Furious.

Even the title is a puzzle, a play on Cotard’s hometown Schenectady allied to a figure of speech in which one thing stands for another. Cotard, too, has an allegorical significance, referring to a delusional syndrome where a person believes he’s rotting away.

Or maybe not so delusional. In this stunningly ambitious, slyly witty and deeply affecting tale, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s hero is indeed “hurtling towards death” – a fear Kaufman renders terrifyingly tangible by editing scenes that are often years apart into a continuous, flowing narrative.

Deserted by his wife (Catherine Keener) and neglected by his therapist (Hope Davis), he has nothing to live for – until a seemingly unlimited bursary allows him to construct a full-scale mock-up of his messy, lonely existence inside an impossibly vast New York warehouse.

Refusing to settle for “anything less than the brutal truth,” he sets about his masterwork, casting actors to play himself (Tom Noonan), his wife (Michelle Williams) and his loyal PA (Samantha Morton in one world, Emily Watson in another).

As life becomes art and vice versa, though, the lines become so blurred even we’re not certain if we’re watching reality, a simulation or an extended dream.

Suffice to say that if you’re not paying attention you’ll quickly get lost down Kaufman’s philosophical rabbit-hole. But afford Synecdoche the respect it deserves and you’ll find it a smart, funny and endlessly poignant fable that, just for good measure, features a virtual who’s who of female indie talent.

Neil Smith

Verdict:

Awash with ideas, imagination and structural daring, Kaufman’s latest is an audacious experiment that repays multiple viewings.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Gershwyn

      May 25th 2009, 18:29

      4

      This is a film that demands to be watched twice (or thrice) to grasp all the Jungian and multi-layered narratives at work.

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    • salrush

      May 24th 2010, 15:54

      5

      Its amazing (but perhaps not surprising) that within the cynicism and the biting humour of this film is also the most touching exploration of the human condition I have ever seen. Kaufman is pushing boundaries left right and centre and I anticipate his future work with bated breath now. He also managed to cast some of the BEST female actors in the biz.

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    • aliceISalive

      Nov 2nd 2010, 19:56

      4

      I have very little idea of what happens and what doesn't happen in this film, but it still had me crying at the end.

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    • matthewbrady

      Sep 1st 2014, 20:08

      5

      This is a movie where life itself is getting shorter. Synecdoche, New York is about a struggling stage director feels that his life is unsuccessful as he struggles with success and women. He discovers an old warehouse and decides to direct a play that includes a life size replica. How long will it take for him to pull off this play. This movie not like another movie that i have seen, because with new movies trying to be new and try to be bold and smart, well this movie does it well by it's brilliant directing. You know when people say to you that life is short or you will always be daddy's baby, well in this movie a stage director played by the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, well his life is going past him very quick and his daughter never ages in this film at all, because this movie is like peoples quotes coming to life and that to me is brilliant and new. The directing and the writing is simply fantastic. Philip Seymour Hoffman once again bringing a well acted performance and the whole cast did a great job too. Some people will not like this movie or some people will not get this movie at all, which I understand because it is hard to follow at some parts, but if you watch this movie a second time you might get a little more information that you missed the first time.

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