Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Synecdoche, New York" (2008) - Movie Review

The confusing and often boring but weirdly intuitive Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” brought a question beyond his reality of screenplay, which is this “how in the hell did he manage to explain this script to his cast and crew to create and complete it?”. When some one sits to watch a film by Charlie Kaufman they can be assured to be inside a person’s head, literally. Into the words, creativity and bizarre world of metaphors and bundled inside an imaginative land of eccentricity exists an odd beat for profound meaning of life. It exemplifies paradox and deflowers the virginity of our shelled thoughts. And it also leaves you frustrated, clueless and in “Synecdoche, New York”, detached and non-emotional.

In the regular trends of the lead characters in Kaufman’s story, we see a below average Joe hating himself for his inability to be attractive while heightening his muse in arts and literature. The man here is Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman). He is with his artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) and four year old daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein). He is a play director and we can see how these two people fell in love and got married. We can also see how distant and deteriorating their relationship is getting. Both are losing each other but Adele is moving faster out of Cotard’s life. Cotard is constantly flirted by a box office ticket issuer Hazel (Samantha Morton) and his lead actress Claire (Michelle Williams) looks up to him which is only an inch away from infatuation. With that we enter into the story of Caden and soon as expected, the reality is kissed goodbye and the twisted and creative universe of Kaufman fills us.

The work of this man is a complex brainiac into the action with ease of moving characters and plots as he pleases without any trouble. He is an art geek. All his works are a puzzle waiting to be solved. Even if you do not solve it there is a pleasure of reading the puzzle and awed by a solution existing for it. In “Synecdoche, New York” I was often uninterested but there is a twitch in me wondering the complexity of this story. It is the same feeling I had for “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” only more related and attached than this film.

What exactly did this film lose in me that the other previous ventures struck me with a bold of lightning? The awe of the imagination was there in this film but there is a void in relating to the central character. Caden Cotard is a constantly changing persona with a consistent self pity and loneliness. He loathes his inability to act and when he wants to, it has long gone. Hence he screws up the current life and worsens the life which never cared for him. He does it again and again and again which becomes a painful exercise and we come to be annoyed by him. There is no need for sympathy as he himself does it uncontrollably.

As the initial sequences have some semblance to the reality and for a minute you wonder what happened to Kaufman, we are invited to the giant warehouse where Caden begins to recreate his master piece of a play. That play is the recreation of his life and that life begins to sprout into infinite pieces and representations of further world within world. End of it there has been enough characters created and in that exponential other characters are recreated. The process is cumbersome and thinking about solving only makes you more befuddled.
Given that the film is a disappointment from this favourite writer of mine, the film would leave its mark in melancholy and sadness. In the end as the lead man’s walk towards his life are changed by people and then he becomes a character in his own play, it is clear that everyone is everyone and everyone can also become no one in losing their identity. That feeling of solitary in a crowded house scares a bit in the little person hiding inside a door in us.

It is a visually imaginative exploration. It is another exercise of Kaufman’s test of sanity in an ever changing scenario. In “Being John Malovich”, “Adaptation.” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, the lead men are deeply in circle of thought process in figuring their life. Each are also disgusted about it and sympathize beyond imagination towards them being the sore loser. In those three there was a kind of connection you could make with them in a positive manner in the end. Caden Cotard becomes a man who seems to never die and gets on our nerves slowly but surely throughout the film. “Synecdoche, New York” is a wonderful creative failure. This is the kind of film which makes you go back and forth. I call it wonderful and creative but failure in some sort of a word I put myself to make it complete. A statement to suffice the purpose of this review. But the film as unreachable it seems has an invisible invitation for a second view. Whether I would take it or not would not be a failure of its content but a slacking from my side. Someday I might take that invitation, till then it remains an unsatisfied film.


Barath said...

superb review boss...havent seen "Being Malkovich" either...Let me find the DVD from your suitcase :)

Ashok said...

Thanks Boss ! Watch "Adaptation." too.