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An acclaimed director sets his mind on the development of a new play. A lifetime later, he has found out a lot of things about life, universe, himself, and the nature of the beast.

I was wondering what to do with my own stupid decision of placing a plot summary at the beginning of every single movie review for a while … no, it’s not reviews in the first place, it’s comments and remarks and things to remind me of what the film was about when I come back to think about it years later. So: no review, but a plot summary – and that for “Synecdoche, New York”…. way to go. What I will remember about this film – or the aspects about it that will help me remember, are:

  • Every character comes up a couple of times, being replaced with their respective older iteration, while a replacement for the younger one comes in
  • The set of the stage play is a massive brick complex in New York, sitting like a fat walrus in the middle of what looks like Brooklyn – and that building takes on a life of its own, growing with the play, getting modified according to the ever evolving script, new walls coming in and down
  • Which leads to the script: the director uses his life as a model for the play, reenacting the cornerstones word by word
  • His assistant and love of his life, running around each other for what seems to be a decade

“Charlie Kaufman is one of the few truly important writers to make screenplays his medium. David Mamet is another. That is not the same as a great writer (Faulkner, Pinter, Cocteau) who writes screenplays. Kaufman is writing in the upper reaches with Bergman.”

This is quite a sentence by Ebert, not just because of the praise it involves, but in particular because of the appreciation screen-writing as art, as truly artistic authorship. And how many screen writers are well-known, stars in their own right even? Not too many, William Goldman comes to mind, but the one superstar is Charlie Kaufman, so maybe he has defined a new segment of artistry.

The amazing thing about “Synecdoche” is that I indulged in what I felt to be an absolutely fantastic movie experience without having a clue why I thought so. I have my troubles following plot lines and chartacter interrelations under the best of circumstances, I am the worst possible audience for all those mafia setups where you have three generations of family links wrapped in an international drug trading plot – because I just do not remember the names and faces quickly enough to realise that the woman I see sleeping with the family doyen is the one I just five minutes ago saw getting married to the Japanese yakuza warrior… so imagine how helpless I am with all those overlapping time layers and doubling and tripling of caracters through bent time-space continua? In the words of the South Park experts: just AWESOME!

Who gives a damn where and when we are, whether it is reality we are observing, or reality’s replay as written into the script, or the reliving of the script reality by life itself? I don’t. I let the magnificence of the scenery and the richness of this life overwhelm me, trust the author-director not to mock me without need, and feel that I am somehow witnessing cinema at its largest.
Read somebody competent trying to explain the movie’s greatness here (Ebert) and here (NYT).

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  1. […] been older: Real highlights were Michael Haneke’s “Hidden / Caché” and Charlie Kaufman’s “Synechdoche, New York”. Among the 2009 and 2010 releases, nothing really has blown me away. Maybe that is the reason why I […]

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