Sunday, February 22, 2009

Muriels: Best Picture, 3rd Place

Synecdoche, New York (189 points/16 votes)

“Charlie Kaufman made his directing debut this year - and you'd have thought it would make more of a splash. I'm not surprised by the mid-sixties rating the movie has been getting on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic: the movie is difficult, in some respects hard to like, and it's definitely possible to make a case against it. But what surprises me is how little discussion there's been, either pro or con, when there is so much to delve into.

“In his previous scripts, Kaufman placed outlandish concepts in a fundamentally recognizable world. His movies were very, very strange, but never that hard to follow: while they could be analysed at length, they weren't that difficult to understand on a basic plot level. With Synecdoche, NY, Kaufman doesn't just take a leap into a new profession (and, might I add, does so with admirable success), but this time he also dares to jump away from reality without a parachute. Once more he starts out in a recognizable world, but he then lets this world slowly unravel around his protagonist, and he ventures so far in his exploration of death and decay that he goes beyond the point where it can be put together again.

“Is Synecdoche, NY a failure? It depends. It's not a perfect film, no: it's messy, some sequences don't work at all, and while I would argue it is very funny, the movie leaves you feeling empty, confused, and exhausted. But it's ironic that a film which argues convincingly that any artistic project with Cotard's ambitions is doomed to fail, almost manages to achieve all those ambitions itself anyway. It is about mortality, about how futile the search for purpose is, it is about love and loss and how alien our bodies can seem from time to time, it is a film that demonstrates that synecdoche works, that you can tell a universal story by focusing on a very specific one. Maybe this movie affects me just because (some of) Cotard's obsessions and neuroses resonate with me, but I'm betting they will with anyone who has ever tried to create anything worthwhile - whether they're as fascinated by big boobs and green poop as Cotard is or not.

“I've seen Synecdoche, NY twice now. I can't quite say I love it - it's too Ourobousian for that, too inward oriented to allow for an emotion such as love. But I wasn't bored for a single second either time, and I'll certainly revisit it often. Not to "figure it out", as if there is a simple solution to this puzzle, a mystery to be solved. But to be surprised by all the details, and to get lost in the maze that is Charlie Kaufman's brain: a place that's probably scary to live in, but a thrill to visit every once in a while.” ~ Hedwig Van Driel

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