61. Synecdoche, New York – Charlie Kaufman (2008)

First Viewing.

Synecdoche, New York is one of those films I’ve been planning on catching it since it’s release five years ago, but it’s kept eluding me. I’ve always liked, maybe not loved, Kaufman’s scripts – I’m one of the few who’d take Adaptation over Eternal Sunshine – and have been anxious to see what kind of director he is. As you may have guessed, I’ve finally  managed to see Synecdoche, and, after much anticipation, I’m a little unsure of what I’ve just witnessed. The plot is unexplainable, I won’t even attempt it, but  IMDB has a stab at it with this, “A theater director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play.” – I’m not sure that even covers 5% of what this movie is about. There is no reality, anything can happen, time shifts forward at random intervals, and logic doesn’t play any part in the structure of the film. Characters exist in ways that escape definition. It’s all very abstract and postmodern. And part of me enjoyed the dreamlike quality of the film, but the cynical part of me wants to dismiss the film, and it’s many fans, as just following the Emperor’s new clothing. It doesn’t engage me the same way Lynch’s Mulholland Drive or Inland Empire does. I’m sure a repeat viewing would help immensely, but I think I’m going to need a few months before I want to sit through S-NY again.

The film relies a lot on metaphors and us, the viewer, being able to put together some moments in the film that really don’t make much obvious sense. For example, one of the main characters buys a house that is constantly on fire. The fire is contained, but the house is filled with smoke. This character lives her whole life in this building. Now you can either view this as pretentious nonsense, or, as a commentary on how we accept things in our life, and put ourselves through trauma that we need not do. How you interpret/view these moments will probably influence your opinion on the film; it’s either boring or brilliant.

I’m still yet to make up my mind on SN-Y. There are moments that I love, but there were more times where I was looking at my watch waiting for it to finish. I wouldn’t dismiss it, but I also wouldn’t recommend it. So, until a second viewing, I’m going to say it’s a little too abstract for my liking.

Marks out of ten – Five



Filed under American

3 responses to “61. Synecdoche, New York – Charlie Kaufman (2008)

  1. I agree it’s very abstract movie and difficult to coprehend plot. First time I saw it I hated it, but upon second viewing I really loved it. The film has such a well thought construction and it really touches on many fascinating subjects.

  2. I agree with Sati here, and your instincts that leaving it a few months to settle before attempting a second viewing are the same as mine were. I too was initially a little overwhelmed by this one – there is almost too much to take in first time – but with the weight of expectation lifted, the second and third go-rounds reveal more of the pathos and little treasures (and humour) the film has to offer.

    As a side note, I’d like to say that having taken a little snoop around, I like what you’re doing here. Keep it up.

    • Appreciate the nice comments :) I was just reading your great post on Blue Velvet and Synedoche, New York kinda reminds me a little of how I’ve felt after watching some Lynch films the first time around. They’re a little impenetrable and confusing, but once you’ve watched them a second, third time you start to love them, you see so much you’ve missed first time over, so i’m hopeful I’ll get the same response from this.

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