Friday, March 26, 2010

Synecdoche, New York (2008) by Charlie Kaufman

In 2008 screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, perhaps the most creative and original screenwriter currently working, made his directorial debut and, what a debut it was. Synecdoche, New York is, perhaps, the most profound film that I have ever seen exploring the nature of love, lust, life, death, art and the meaning of all of it, whether art imitates life, or life is art, or any other combination of "art" and "life" that I can put together on the fly. On the surface the film follows Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) through his life from 40 - 80 (or 90 depending on whether you believe Hoffman's interview or the makeup artists) as he receives a McArthur grant and tries to make a piece of art that will define his life at the same time that it captures everyone's story.

The surface, however, is rarely what we're concerned with. The story gets at many deep ironies and intricacies of life. Whether its Sammy, the man who lives his life following Caden, knowing him more than Caden knows himself, or that Caden loves Hazel through the whole story, but spends his whole life desiring the woman or women that he's not with in at the moment, whether it be Adele (Catherine Keener), Claire (Michelle Williams) or even Hazel. Hazel's desire for Caden takes on more dangerous imagery, she lives in a house that is always on fire, a slow smoldering that never goes out and never consumes; it just slowly burns forever until she finally gets what she wants and the turn that it takes.

The film, which Roger Ebert named the best film of the last decade, is hard to describe properly without spoiling it for anyone who has not seen the film, or without having a proper dialogue, so I'll cut the review off here, but know that it is a labyrinth of emotions and ideas. Charlie Kaufman (writer of the wonderful Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) writes another gem, and gets to put a very personal stamp on it as his first film at the helm. Watch this film more than once, the more you watch it, the more you'll be able to get out of it.