Synecdoche, New York review

Childlike singing. A clock. A radio interview, “why do so many people write about the fall”… “Well I think it is seen as the beginning of the end; in the years of life… then September, the beginning of fall is when the bloom is off the rose and things start to die. It’s a melancholy month maybe because of that, how beautiful”. And finally a reflection of down trodden man. In literally the first 2 minutes of Synecdoche, New York Charlie Kauffman (writer and director) condenses the entire essence of the film in to it; no empty promises, no lies and no sugar coating. Kauffman makes it abundantly clear that the film you are about to see is going to be very bleak, dark and times poetically sad. But there is a dim saving light of joy hidden in the main character Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), deep inside of him he has an endearing sadness, innocence and naivety to him; which like the many woman in his life makes you want to take care of him and let him cry on your shoulder.

Caden is a theatre director of great promise and thus his talent attracts him enough attention to gain a prestigious grant, with the intention of creating true art with it. But after mystery malady causes an already hypochondriac’s health to worsen, his various sicknesses becomes a centre point of his life. While at the same his marriage breaks down and his wife takes their daughter away from him, never to see her again. Caden is left with the only means of dealing with all the physical and mental pain the only way he knows how, create an epic, stark portrayal of his life which is a tapestry of a series of unfortunate events. Then the metaphysics kicks in and Caden goes all Inception on us and writes a play about someone writing a play, while one of his love interests moves into a house that it permanently on fire yet no one bats an eye lid. Eventually Caden’s work becomes an obsession and soon begins to contaminate all areas of his life.

First time watching Synecdoche, New York: bizarre, confusing and rather pretentious without anything really important to say. The second time watching it: in some macabre way, the pessimistic tone was rather refreshing against the usual bubble gum bombardment from Hollywood. The third time I watched it: with previous films like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Synecdoche finally cemented Charlie Kaufman in my estimations as cinema’s greatest voice since Ingmar Bergman. Synecdoche, New York was a very tough, bitter and unsavoury film that sat incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy in my palate; but while after first viewings I would have done anything to wash its nasty taste out of my mouth, by the third Synecdoche was a sweet serenity to my taste buds. But isn’t that what all great films do; change your opinion on them with each viewing? Embed themselves deep inside of you, both in your gut and mind? Demand you to face up to life’s big questions? But as a macabre, metaphysical, mind spinner Synecdoche, New York is hardly going to be a good choice as a date flick, a film with the boys or for an easy watching, but instead what it does offer a deeply troubling watch that promises, for better or worse to make you a different person at the end of the credits, from when you were during the titles. It might inspire you to grab life and cling to it with every ounce of strength you have and then squeeze it until all the love, laughs and good times come out. Or it could possibly make you realise how insignificant life is and how inevitable death is.


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