Monday, November 24, 2008

Synechdoche, New York

A few thoughts on Synecdoche, New York.

Maybe someday Charlie Kaufman will jump the shark inside a shark inside a shark. If he does, we'll undoubtedly spend the aftermath trying to figure out if it was really a shark or merely a tetrahedral hallucination swimming in a four-dimensional pool inside the head of man driven insane by reading Gödel, Escher Bach.

I wonder if Synedoche is the most cynical film I've ever seen or if it somehow reedemed itself in the end with a glimmer of hope. It's not the first time I've sensed cynicism from Kaufman--as much as I enjoyed it, I found Eternal Sunshine to be among most cynical films I'd seen in a very long time.

At what point does one's search for truth and meaning become a white whale overzealously pursued until all that remains of one's life is just the search and the search alone? And how hollow and devoid of meaning will one's life be if one becomes so consumed by such a quest?

Synechdoche led me back to such questions.

Perhaps, like Ebert, I need to see the film a couple more times, but I wonder if Kaufman, by taking over the director's chair this time, gave himself too much rope. Is the film too Kaufmanesque for its own good? Even so, the master braintwister never fails to fascinate, intrigue and reward me with brilliant, quirky looping through mentally self-referential worlds.

Basic synposis spoilers follow, so hit the brakes now if you so desire...

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an unhappliy married director whose production of Death of a Salesman earns him a MacArthur grant and enough money to finance his relentless magnum opus, a play that ultimately becomes so obsessed with truth it goes all crazy ouroboros on itself morphing into a play about the real life of the creator of the play and the world inside that play... (um, if you know Kaufman, you get the picture). Questions of life, meaning, truth, belief and regret are, of course, mercilessly woven into the mayhem (at least that's what we believe).

It'll give you something to talk about over a drink. If nothing else, maybe it will cleanse your palette enough to promise a guilt-free viewing of the next Apatow release.


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