synecdochepostertop
There’s no secret about my love for Charlie Kaufman movies, so needless to say I’ve been waiting for this one all year long. Usually reserved to screenwriting duties, Kaufman went a step further with Synecdoche, New York, and made his directorial debut. Perhaps for this reason, this film peers even deeper into the absurdities and recursions of Kaufman’s mind than we’ve seen in the past. The film also features what may be the perfect marriage to Kaufman’s characters, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the lead.

If Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tiptoed the surrealistic line, Synecdoche, New York tumbles right over the edge. Unlike his previous films, Synecdoche also largely abandons a cohesive narrative flow. Although we do grow older with the character, each snippet of the character’s life is so stock full of recursion and self-reference that aging does little to offer narrative structure to the viewer.

“Synecdoche” is a literary term which refers to a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part. And likewise, the film as a whole can potentially be either praised or criticized scene for scene. It has moments of sheer brilliance, perhaps most notably during a funeral scene where a priest gives a breathtaking speech, which might just be Kaufman’s “Hamlet moment”. Unfortunately, the film has many scenes and symbols which are also extremely frustrating, definitely a reminder that every great writer still needs an editor.

Overall, this is a film that needs to be seen multiple times– really, it should be viewed multiple times. To be praised for its ambition and profundity, I find it difficult to ultimately fault Kaufman for slipping up on occasion within a film that’s trying to say everything.

The only real question left is: Where does Kaufman go from here? Can he return to writing more accessible films, or will Kaufman go completely David Lynch and get even more recursive? Kaufman has left his career in a precarious place: Does he continue to recycle the same grand ambition? After making a film which attempts to say it all, perhaps the most mysterious thing about Synecdoche, New York is wondering about what its intellectual sequel could possibly be.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 4 years to find out.

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