Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Synecdoche & Kaufman

Continuing on the subject of film, Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite filmmakers and Adaptation (2002) is one of my favorite films of the past decade. (Warning: If you like films that go easy on your brain, Kaufman is not for you.) I've yet to see his latest, Synechdoche, New York, which Roger Ebert recently reviewed:

"The film is confused, contradictory and unclear, so I am informed by those unmoved by it. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly grades it 'D plus' and has what I agree is a reasonable reaction to this film: 'An artist makes a movie that is so labyrinthine and obscure, such a road map of blind alleys, such a turgid challenge to sit through that it sends most people skulking out of the theater -- except, that is, for a cadre of eggheads who hail the work as a visionary achievement.'

I imagine he speaks for a majority opinion on this film. I am resigned to belonging to a cadre of eggheads hailing "Synecdoche..."


Following is the trailer for Adaptation, which is one of the few films I've seen with a structure I'd call 'recursive'. If you watch the film, here are a few facts that I think will make it more enjoyable:

1. Susan Orlean is a real person (played by Meryl Streep) who really wrote a book called The Orchid Thief. 2. Orlean really commissioned Charlie Kaufman to adapt this book into a film. 3. Kaufman really developed a case of writer's block, failed to adapt Orlean's screenplay and instead wrote a screenplay about how he failed to write the screenplay (since he couldn't adapt, he adapted). 4. Somehow he managed to successfully pitch the screenplay about his failure to adapt to author Orlean and get her to give him the go ahead with the film. 5. Kaufman doesn't really have a twin brother Donald--presumably, Donald represents Kaufman's alter ego, the devil on his shoulder, wanting to sell out to Hollywood a la Bruckheimer. 6. Unlike Nicholas Cage (playing Kaufman in the film), Charlie Kaufman in real life is pretty skinny and has quite a bit of hair on his head.


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