Synecdoche New York

Rating – **


Fans of writer Charlie Kaufman’s trio of greatness (Malkovich, Adaptation, & Eternal Sunshine) will probably be as surprised as I was by Synecdoche New York. Does it push the boundaries even further? Is it funny, insightful, challenging, and arguably a work of genius? ……………No, because it’s not like his other films, it’s actually a bit shit. I don’t think the blame rests with Kaufman directing for the first time either. He milks great performances from every cast member, including the young girl playing Hoffman’s daughter. Shots are well composed with many striking visuals throughout. One of the main characters lives in a house which is permently on fire, and much of the film takes place in a vast warehouse large enough to house several blocks of New York. On paper it all sounds like vintage Kaufman.

The basic plot follows a theatre director played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (brilliant as always.) In recognition of his body of work he is awarded a “genius grant” which essentially gives him unlimited time and resources to craft an epic production of cultural significance. Sadly the potential of this concept is never satisfyingly executed or explored. Instead the film gradually spirals out of control in a bad way. Kaufman seems to be infatuated with the idea of “infinity pictures” A picture inside a picture inside a….  you get the idea.  Sure they can be diverting for a second of two, but you shouldn’t take that concept and base a whole film around it! But this is what Kaufman settles for in the end, and he seems so pleased with himself you’d think he’d invented the concept. By the final scene all logic has seeped away and the film has long since disappeared up it’s own arse, inside another arse, inside another… which, of course, turns out to be Charlie Kaufman’s own arse. Perhaps the title tells you everything you need to know. It’s obscure, apparently meaningless, inaccessible, pretentious, and difficult to get through. More appropriate titles include – Eternal Darkness of the Pointless Screenplay and Being Inside Charlie Kaufman’s Own Arse.


~ by thewholebuffalo on July 20, 2009.

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