If You Enjoy Having Your Brain Fucked With, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ Is For You

On my, at times, spiteful and bitter stupid movies post a while back some lovely reader suggested that I should stop watching movies as I obviously hate them. This is categorically untrue.

I bloody love movies with all my heart and soul. Whenever I contemplate suicide I talk myself out of it by citing that, “Well, at least there’ll be a new Woody Allen or David Fincher film next year”. But when one loves something so much, he hates to see it bastardised, therefore ‘bad’ movies get the full brunt of my potty-mouthed ways.

If I’d taken this person’s advice and given up on movies, on Saturday I would have missed out on ‘Coraline’ (the first good 3D movie), ‘Waltz With Bashir’ (the most immersive film in years) and the reason I’m writing these here words, ‘Synecdoche, New York’.


Another reader complained that while they like aspects of this blog (i.e the film content), they don’t like the first person approach and find it a little self-indulgent. Again this reader is wrong. It’s incredibly self indulgent. Appallingly so. But as you’ll read a little self-indulgence can go a long way, especially for the audience. (As for the indulgee its as harmful as skin cancer, with paranoia, a fear of death and generally being quite a shit person to be around being the three most obvious, negative factors).

The ‘really quite excellent and never anything less than good’ Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a theatre director whose marriage is going down the shitter. Along with his randomly coloured poo, his relationship with his daughter, his state of mind and his relationship with practically anyone ever (note: this is not a happy film). When given a Genius Grant, Caden decides to put on a play of ‘complete and total truth’. But the only truth he knows is himself. So the cast is made up of people playing him, his lovers, his daughter, his family, and finally, the cast playing his cast, playing his cast, playing his cast…

The idea of making ‘the piece about yourself’ is not new to Charlie Kaufman (here taking on scripting and directing duties) having already, literally, put himself on screen in ‘Adaptation’. Amazingly, Synecdoche feels even more personal (read-self indulgent). And that’s, for me, the main draw. Every story ever has been told, its what the creative people can bring to the story that makes it interesting and worth telling. Its what they’ve got to say. A scriptwriter putting himself into every well-crafted word.

And boy is it well-crafted. From one liners the aforementioned Woody would be proud of (“I don’t menstruate, so I don’t know how I could smell like I’m menstruating”), to the surreal imagery (the house permanantly on fire), to the shift in time without even blinking, every aspect of the script has something to say on the biggest themes imaginable, loneliness, desire and, most abundantly, death. Even the main character’s name, Cotard, refers to a delusion whereby the sufferer believes they are literally rotting away. (After having read this only weeks ago in Chuck Klosterman’s ‘Killing Yourself to Live’ I, rather, self indulgently believed I had this condition).

I haven’t even mentioned the across-the-board excellent cast (Next year’s ‘Best Supporting Actress’ list could quite easily read Sam Morton, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis, Emily Watson, Michelle Williams, just for this film), the haunting Jon Brion score or the fact that in ends when it should. It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, (a lot like this blog), but if you have a brain and not only enjoy using it but also enjoy having it fucked with, then this is the film for you.