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2008.11.14

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Aaron OOF

You already know that for one of the few times in modern history, you and I are full in sync on this one, but I was even more fascinated to read this because, having still not seen it since my first viewing weeks ago, not only did this post retrigger certain things for me, but you actually mention a few things I hadn't thought of. (And no, I didn't see the date changes in the opening scene either, but wow ... how subtle a way to foreshadow the rest of the film and make that opening so much more meaningful - especially when the big exchange between Caden and Hazel occurs about how long his wife and daughter have been away in Germany.

One thing you sort of allude to but I think is vital and definitely fits in with the rest of your comments is how physically ill Caden is at the beginning -- psychosomatic? maybe, but definitely visible to us -- and yet, not only does he "live" to a ripe old age, but the older he gets, all those physical symptoms slowly disappear. And his very process of visiting doctor to doctor and mishearing them the first time as he imagines his own illness - only to later see his hypochondria become realized (or is it?) - is one in which he is obsessed with his own well-being until he has something else to obsess about, namely his art.

I can't wait for Part 2 ... and I still really need to see the film again. Even if you believe this post is mostly subjective, it's still less purely reactionary than mine was! (Of course, that wouldn't be difficult!)

That French Girl

You had me at Night Train from a hobo's bladder. :-)

Seriously though, lovely review. I am dying to see this film.

Ally

Such a insightful review. I am looking forwards to the second part.

I need to re-watch the film too (preferable with subtitles if possible :p) I missed the time chance in opening scene too although I'd expected the opening scene to foreshadow the film's essence and was watching out for signs. Now it totally makes sense.

After reading your thought in childhood, I want to tell you this: just a couple days before viewing this film, I suddenly recall something that I haven't thought of for a long while: sometimes between I was 10 to 12, I thought maybe I was the only real person, the other people are just like moving props on stage. I thought "since I could only feel my own feeling, how did I know if others really could 'feel' too?!" And I was troubled with what the meaning of my existence was. Thus, I was happily surprised when the film shows similar concept. (CF your story, I guess maybe 9-12 is the period when kids start to look for the meaning of their existence.)
Also, later in time, my thought kind of turned into a Truman Show thing, and I would (and still do occasionally now) imagine what it would look like seeing what I am doing from a certain angle.

Just want to share this thought. :)

lichman

after finally watching this, I consider it one of the best comedies I've ever seen.

but my god, I hated the house on fire with a passion. I just loathed the idea. oddly, I could accept everything else--the police state, the blimps, the "funtown" buses, the apparent 'feminizing' that I sort of read differently, the confusion of art vs. reality.

otherwise, I wholeheartedly loved the film. I just can't stand that goddamn house on fire.

Filmbrain

John --

You're not alone in your dislike of the house on fire -- it seems the the single biggest complaint with the film. I don't quite understand why that is problematic, but all the other surreal elements are OK.

I'll admit I don't fully get it -- that is, if there's anything to get at all -- but it didn't bother me in the slightest.

Steven Boone

Brain, this is beautiful. If I don't kill myself first, I'll have to put quarters together to see this flick. Anthony Lane's persuasively negative review of it made me avoid it like a TB colony, but your deep, personal sampling now makes it sorta inescapable. Sounds like it will fuck me up in the manner of Why Has Bhodi Dharma Left for the East and the mountain burial in The Ballad of Narayama. Such films "destroy" me, too, but instead of drinking, I try to see something that lifts me out of the coffin with life-affirming truths, something like

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89sL4R50Z6E

Filmbrain

Steve --

Thanks for the comment. Good call on both Bhodi Dharma and Ballad of Narayama, particularly the latter.

Thanks too for the link -- that's a wonderful clip.

john john

Hands down, the most lucid and insightful review yet:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081105/REVIEWS/811059995

Filmbrain

John John --

Thanks for that link -- that is indeed a great review.

Louis Proyect

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/synecdoche-new-york/

john john

Synecdoche, New York Trivia #1:

The exterior and lobby of Caden Cotard's Schenectedy playhouse are played by the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, NY.

(Like the Genius Grant that falls into Caden's lap, the museum's elegant modernist architecture and lovely wooded setting seem a puzzling way of establishing the mediocrity of his Schenectedy enterprise. But Kaufman is speaking his own language, one I haven't mastered, and that's the sort of challenge I'll choose any time over understanding a work of art all too well. Perhaps the film's many incongruities are there to irritate the logical parts of our minds, to keep us almost involuntarily turning the film in the light to examine its facets. On the other hand what does "incongruities" even mean in a context so rife with them? For myself and others, there's part of the rub. On the other other hand - as Roger Ebert illuminates so well - for all its surrealistic twists and turns, Caden's life - in its essentials, in its major concerns - is exactly like most human beings'.)

The 250-foot-tall twin smokestacks of the nearby, abandoned Glenwood Power Station can be glimpsed as Hazel (Samantha Morton) arrives on the scene.

(My initial reaction was "Hey! I know this place! This is a cool place!" On a second viewing, these leviathan structures seem to foreshadow the scale of Caden's New York City theater project. And, in the end, I guess, Hazel will have loomed over Caden's consciousness just as undeniably.)

hobo's bladder

Ahhhh!!

Night Train!

captain ahab

excellent review— i certainly share your frustration. i find myself searching for more and more writing on this film just to make sure other people were as deeply affected as i was. another insightful write up i came across, with a fascinating interview linked at the end:

http://filmfreakcentral.net/screenreviews/synecdochenewyork.htm

BMIML

Even Cotard's name may have a doppelganger. I recalled the Cottard character from Camus' 'The Plague' as a man striving to write the perfect novel. When the plague claims him, he's written but one sentence.

Shamer

Great film, just watched it but I was under the ieismrspon the entire time that the whole piece was a metaphor. The broken down old warehouse is his mind which hosts an endless cast of characters. One has to wonder if the Play is only a stream of paranoid thoughts of what could happen while his wife and daughter are in Berlin. Any husband would dream twisted fantasies if his wife and daughter went to a foreign country without him. Most parents would be sick to the stomach if their daughter tattooed their whole body. I think this is just one of the endless amount of paranoid thoughts the Director had if his wife never came back to him. Another example is the dialogue of adelle seemingly talking to someone and mentions Thanks for the fuck. I believe this is also him being paranoid of her finding another lover. The ear piece giving the feedback at the end is in my humble opinion his intuition. His death is the destruction of his fears. When he wakes up he will realize that he is not dying but only about to embark on a fascinating adventure and will greet his wife and olive with open arms. Just my two cents. I could be wrong. Either way it was still a great flick. May have to watch it again.

Lakshay

I agree completely, Matt.I have been wnrnediog why this movie hasn't gained fanfair / critical acclaim. The more reviews I read, the more I see the main criticism's of this movie are, "it's too ambitious, too weird, too deep, I didn't get it..." And as for asking more questions than providing answers, could this be because Caden's play, Charlie's movie, etc. are attempting to use a part of life to describe the whole of life (I think there's a word for that), in which easy answers are seldom given to the big questions. These criticisms could be used for any of Kaufman's films, all of which are, in my opinion, on a different level from anything else out there. Every review which suggests synecdoche is too complex, should be simpler, etc. just makes me want to see this movie all the more.

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