Thursday, 23 September 2010

Synecdoche, New York

So last night I watched Synecdoche, New York as Nic fell asleep in front of Midsomer Murders and Liverpool were humilitated in the Carling Cup. It's a pretty incredible movie.

I bought the DVD about 2 weeks ago and I've been reluctant to give it a watch. I'm a huge Charlie Kaufman fan and although his films are renowned for being supremely complex and challenging I can usually go in with an idea of what they might be about. I don't think I've ever seen a film with anything even resembling Caden Cotard's quest to build a replica of New York City inside a warehouse. Still, the film manages to draw you in and despite some surrealist flourishes you buy into the characters, their emotions and the logic (I maintain there is one) of their world. I should also mention this is a supremely confident effort by Kaufman making it hard to believe this is his directorial debut.

Like most of my favourite films there is a sense that it is up to the viewer to take their own meaning from the story. For me it fits quite comfortably into the Kaufman canon. If Adaptation is a debate about the role of the writer and what it means to be accepted into the 'mainstream' then this is Kaufman musing on the responsibility of the artist. Cotard wishes to represent an all encompassing 'truth' that he sees in his real life. However, he equates this truth with suffering and therefore creates this replicating simulacrum (I knew that degree in English Lit would come in handy one day) of tragedy and sadness. Even the top layer of 'reality' is shown to be part of this fake repetition with the burning house and the jumps in time - Cotard loses his identity throughout the film but you have to question whether it's really all there to begin with. Like Inception is there a layer of consciousness above the ones we the audience see?

Basically the film is all about duality. Cotard tries to create an art piece that reflects what is real but what is real is constantly brought into question. His art is supposed to represent a whole world to be observed however everything down to what the actors think is controlled by a single person (The Director). Ultimately Cotard's vision of this live action theatre could be seen as a failure which may suggest Kaufman is endorsing the traditional modes of storytelling that he has proven a master of in his previous scripts. Yet, the film 'Synecdoche, New York' is so brilliant in its lack of convention that it in turn suggest these rules of filmmaking are outdated and can be bent and broken as the wrtier and director see fit.

Alternatively you can ignore my rambling and just watch the film for yourself. I'll warn you that greater concentration levels than those needed for Piranha 3D may be required.

Phew, that was quite an essay. Maybe tomorrow we'll take a look at another funny sign or something.



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