on 3 July 2011
Kaufman's first movie as both writer and director is full of his trademark strangeness. It's also darkly funny -- sometimes hilariously so -- at times deeply moving, and occasionally quite depressing. After a fairly conventional start the movie gradually creeps into the bizarre as the main protagonist's life becomes entwined with his magnus opus: a monumentally-scaled play reflecting his own life. Caden Cotard battles against mysterious ill-health, desertion by his wife and daughter, his inability to form stable relationships, and the sprawling, leviathan that is his play. As his 1:1 recreation of his world becomes his world, and the decades pass without the play passing the rehearsal stage, Cotard is absorbed, and yet sidelined, by his own creation. Until death finally conjoins (or maybe separates) the man and his work. Kaufman seems to be trying to address many basic human themes. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he doesn't, but it's alway fascinating to watch him try. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Cotard, is mesmerising, and is supported by an equally impressive cast. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste, but if you like thought-provoking, off-the-wall cinema this is a must-see.
on 4 October 2011
i find it frustrating that the average review of this film has suffered so much because the dvd people haven't put subtitles on it, when it's a criminally under-rated film that many people would enjoy if they gave it a chance. the people slagging it off, despite loving the film, and there are some on here, are robbing people of the chance to see it, and to find the joy that they themselves found. there being no subtitles isn't kaufman's fault, isn't amazon's fault, and isn't the fault of the people who haven't yet seen it and are looking at the average rating of films to see whether they'd like to watch it. there are other ways to protest about subtitles, but i don't see that this is the place.
"synecdoche, new york" is a film that seems to have passed so many people by, and in an age of transformers and twilight and hollywood remakes and remakes and remakes, and prequels and sequels, is that rare thing - an original work of art. it flopped in america, and generally around the world, and made it so much harder than it should for an incredible screenwriter to get cracking on his next work. i will make no bones about it - i love charlie kaufman. i don't love everything he does - i thought "being john malkovich" was interesting, and didn't particularly like "eternal sunshine of the spotless mind", but i loved both this and "adaptation", and even when it doesn't work for me, i love the risks he takes, the sheer mindblowing ambition of the man. he makes you think, he involves you, he makes you work for understanding, but he doesn't leave you out there. i think he has described it as a conversation, and it's not just a "message" for you. it's thoughts, philosophies, emotions, and he will bend reality to get it in there (so we have a woman buying a house that is on fire, we have a block being built in a warehouse where the block is clearly bigger than the warehouse it is inside). to take him literally and to get annoyed at him is to miss him entirely.
people get annoyed at films like this. "i watch a film to relax," people say. "i want to eat my popcorn, switch my brain off, and just chill out". nothing wrong with that. i like to do that too. but not every time. sometimes i want an experience, i want a film to challenge things that i have felt, or to reinforce things i have felt, but in ways that i have never even thought of before. this is that film, and it is not snobbish or elitist to suggest that there is a place for those movies too.
this isn't even a film you can understand after watching once, you must watch it again, ideally after reading everything you can find about it. you could almost do a course on this one film, there is so much there. but if it offers so much new insight after each viewing, it isn't a chore. it shouldn't necessarily be a bad thing that there is the occasional film that isn't just a popcorn film. it's just a shame that nobody seemed ready for it. i cannot recommend this enough if you are willing to watch something different, something a bit challenging. this will give you as much out of the viewing experience as you want it to, as long as you're willing to meet it halfway.
long live charlie kaufman, there aren't enough like him. there isn't even another one like him.
on 22 January 2011
I'm not sure if I'd call it the "smash-hit comedy of the year", as the box this two-disc dvd set came in proudly proclaimed, but there are funny moments. And tender moments. And heart-wrenching moment. Synecdoche, New York is a brilliant movie, excellently paced (though slower than most films in the modern day; fitting, given the scope). It's an amazing journey, with unreliable narrators and narcissistic protagonists. It's everything we want life to be - and everything we wish it wasn't, often mixed to the point where they can't be kept apart.
It's probably not for everyone - but if you like movies with layered meanings that can be watched again and again for a fresh experience and don't mind a film that's happy to share its story with you at its own pace... Then you'll have a blast.
on 29 May 2010
I knew this would be the type of film to divide opinion and that is clear from the other reviews here. I'm sure some people will be able to analyse the films narrative to the nth degree however even as someone who isn't a film geek the themes being explored here are clear. It's hard to watch without turning some of the analysis on yourself and for me that's what makes a brilliant film. Highly recommended.
on 11 February 2012
Charlie Kaufman just gets better and better, and more and more enthralling! If you enjoyed Being John Malkewich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc. then you will really enjoy this film. I hardly need to say more than that. (Others here have put it far more elequently than me!!) It's dark, weird, puzzling, strange, bizarre, totally original and utterly absorbing. I even thought there were shades of Eraserhead every now and then. Particularly when Caden is visiting the various medicos, due to his paranoia about his health, with the ominous hum of machinery ever present in the background! Definitely one to watch again.
There seems to have been a real campaign against this film on the basis that there aren't any subtiltes on the DVD! I sympathise with those who are hard of hearing who have been unable to enjoy this film because of the lack of subtitles. But to give it a one star review on that basis is totally misleading. This facility should be used for reviewing the film itself, NOT the way the DVD is produced. As a result, the average star rating has been completely, and negatively, distorted through no fault of the film itself. However, after the main protagonists had mumbled their way through the first few minutes, I, too, tried to put on the subtitles, (because I think if there's dialogue there, it must be worth hearing) only for it not to work. I thought it was the fault of the player, or the remote wasn't working. So I just went back and watched it again and picked up more the second time!
My own personal criticism of the dvd producers (as other reviewers here have pointed out) is putting "hilarious" on the cover, and "smash-hit comedy of the year". (And a 4 star review from the News of the World?? Who were they trying to kid? Was it because Emma Watson takes her top off and says "Fancy a ****?" or words to that effect...) Surely they must realise that this just gives the completely wrong impression! Funny peculiar, yes, but not funny hilarious!
If I could give this film more than 5 stars, I would!!
on 30 March 2014
So hard to write this review - I just wanted to dislike this movie - and as it started I disliked it - everything it depicted was not what we would want even of a modern western life.
At first I don't believe that what is happening to the Philip Seymour Hoffman character is real, the loss, the years go by, the small joys, the ocean of regrets that mount, then as new people enter your life, you forget some of the pain, and then when things couldn't get worse, they do.
Then something catches your eye with the introduction of that impeccable actress Samantha Morton in a small role, and you wonder what will happen next? What role will this character play in your life? Will you do them justice or treat them callously?
When one of the friends who has been a friend of the anti-hero for over 20 years finally takes his own life, everything comes crashing down. Dear me, I haven't been hit so hard by a movie in a long long time.
Not for those that need instant fixes, this is cinema as life. Be patient and remember you take from it what you want to.
on 31 December 2011
Watching this seemingly interminable film (I have never seen it through to the end: too painful) is like being trapped in someone else's bad dream. Someday I may find the courage to watch it again. I wouldn't recommend recommending it to anyone, any more than I would recommend recommending someone to take a long cold bath topped up with a bucketful of sand. But is is a unique, intense, vivid and significant experience, packed with ideas and great performances.
What a film! You really need to view this several times and talk about it with like minded or at least people who want to understand. This is at once a film about our lives and how we direct and support each other, and about other people and how they support and direct us.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a brilliant actor. He acted and Kaufman directed this film. How and where he got his vision is unknown, it is just there. He was able to blend this script into this film that we all can conceive as our own. Based on a man directing a play of multiples of daily life. The acting is superb, and the first time you view the film, just take it all in and the second time, examine it closely, and the next time examine what speaks to you.
The actors, Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Diane Wiest, Hope Evans, and on and on, all bring
the characters to life. They are people we know or are related to. This is a life , our lives, their lives. This film is real.
Recommended. prisrob 02-07-14
on 12 April 2015
Interesting film although it doesn't live up to the hype that surrounded its release. Philip Seymour Hoffman is superb and really carries the film. The central conceit of the film (i.e. the representation of NYC within a warehouse - which has a warehouse within it that contains a representation of NYC ad infinitum) doesn't really come together as we only ever see a tiny corner of the director's (i.e. Hoffman's) world within it. The film as a whole really relies on using the Borgesian concepts dealt with in stories such as The Garden of Forking Paths, The Circular Ruins and the Library of Babel. But Borges does it so much better and so much more economically. Still an interesting film to 'have seen' and - as I said - Hoffman is superb.
on 19 October 2009
Kaufman's first directorial debut could have very well turned out to be a turkey. As it turns out it, however, he just may have created his masterpiece - the quintessential Kaufmanesque high concept film.
To give you a rough idea of the premise, the film documents the last forty years of theatre director Caden Cotard's life. After producing a string of fairly successful, if unfulfilling, minor theatre pieces he is awarded the mysterious MacAuthur grant, the so-called 'genius' grant, in order to produce a substantial work and legacy. Herein lies the narritive drive of the film as Cotard strives to define himself through his art.
There are many Kaufman-esque moments to keep fans enthralled, though the real charm of the film lies in its stripping of the shackles of the ego and laying the heart of humanity bare. Many questions are raised from the multi-layered story-telling. Time, for instance, is dipicted in such a way as to suggest that Cotard loses track of it at certain points of the film creating the impression of time gaining momentum as it hurtles towards its deunoumone. At one point in the film he mistakes the age of his little girl from his ex-marriage preserving the image he has of her in his head, an eternally youthful and innocent four-year-old. The scene involving their reunion is truly heartbreaking and emotionally eldritch as he discovers the cold-hard truth about his beloved 'flower girl'.
Whilst the film has its bleak moments, it also has moments of very funny black-humour. There are also deeply surreal aspects to the film (Hazel buying a house that is slowly burning down, or random cartoons on television with the face of Cotard on, to name but a few) but for the most part the film is grounded in a very realistic, albiet dreamlike and whimiscal, pseudo-logic.
The all-star cast provide sterling performances, Hoffman especially, helping to solidify the fantastical world Kaufman has created, and perhaps the reason behind Kaufman's success in directing his first feature film lies in their understanding of what is expected of them and their willingness to oblige his whimsies. The plot slowly infolds in to layer upon layer of infinite possibilities, like an old russian doll.
To go in to any great detail regarding the intricacies of the plot of Synocdoche, New York would be nonsensical and ultimately futile, as Kaufman's vision should be consumed holistically in order to fully appreciate its sheer scope and beauty. Like the title of the film suggests, and like life itself for that matter, the whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts.
A work of sheer genius that will cause you to look introspectively your own life, love and humanity. Perhaps it would be wise to keep a box of kleenex handy, also. - 5 stars