Synecdoche, New York

Big Rob’s last post got us thinking about Charlie Kaufman’s latest movie, which he wrote and directed. We started to wonder how this thing has flown under the radar all year, but I guess that’s just the way that his movies tend to fly. We just wanted to find some information on it and though not much is out for Synecdoche, New York there’s enough to get us truly excited.

For starters there’s Kaufman’s involvement, but he’s rounded up a terribly impressive cast. Among them are Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Hope Davis.

For seconds there’s the plot, which according to LA Times writer Jay Fernandez, “will make “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine” look like instructional industrial films. No one has ever written a screenplay like this. It’s questionable whether cinema is even capable of handling the thematic, tonal and narrative weight of a story this ambitious.”

He goes on to say that:

For one thing, the marketers are going to have to borrow from the P.T. Anderson “Magnolia” poster campaign, in which the title was broken out syllabically, just to get people to pronounce the film properly. (It’s sin-neck-duh-key, emphasis on the neck.)

For all those who aren’t AP English professors, a “synecdoche,” other than a clever play on Schenectady, where some of the film takes place, is a figure of speech in which a part is used to describe the whole or the whole is used to describe a part (think “threads” for clothes, or “the law” for a police officer). It’s representative shorthand.

Yes, I had to look it up. Several times. And this is far from the only reference or play on words in Kaufman’s story that rewards a closer look.

“Synecdoche” nominally concerns a theater director who thinks he’s dying, and how that shapes his interactions with the world, his art and the women in his life. But it is really a wrenching, searching, metaphysical epic that somehow manages to be universal in an extremely personal way. It’s about death and sex and the vomit-, poop-, urine- and blood-smeared mess that life becomes physiologically, emotionally and spiritually (Page 1 features a 4-year-old girl having her butt wiped). It reliably contains Kaufman’s wondrous visual inventions, complicated characters, idiosyncratic conversations and delightful plot designs, but its collective impact will kick the wind out of you.

Wow… sounds good but intellectually taxing. And this is the first poster.


Synecdoche, New York hits theaters on March 21, 2008.

Comments on this entry are closed.