Tag Archives: Philip Seymour Hoffman

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

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37. The Ides of March – George Clooney (2011)

First Viewing.

I’m not sure if this film is a dress rehearsal before George takes up the big job as president, but he does makes a damn fine job of it. He could be a 21st century Bill Clinton, with good looks, and without the sex scandals, presumably. Now while George is prepping himself to become leader of the free world he’s also made a very compelling film; it’s dark and treacherous like all good political movies should be. If you know anything about the title – a reference to Julius Caesar – you can gather what to expect here. Again Ryan Gosling puts in another fine performance, -read my Drive review for more- he actually reminds me of a young Clooney rather a lot, which is certainly no bad thing. The supporting cast is terrific, it’s as good as anything put together by the master of the ensemble movie Robert Altman. Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood and Mirasa Tomei are all equally as important to the success of this film as the two star names are. The only serious issue I have with the movie is that it can be difficult to follow at times, especially for a foreigner like myself not brought up on American politics. There’s a deluge of names, numbers and places and it’s not always easy to keep track of who’s doing what. A simple understanding of American primaries and so on certainly helps. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy the movie if you don’t, as it is very good and it sits as a nicely as a companion piece to Clooney’s Good Night & Good Luck. It impressed me a lot more than The Descendants, which is getting all the Oscar buzz.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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