April 19, 2009

#024: Synecdoche, New York

On this little blog I like to pretend that I can "review" movies. This film is so over my head that I am not even going to make an attempt. However, I am going to write a little bit about it because a lot of people probably haven't even heard of it. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in this movie playing Caden Cotard, a theater director trying to find some purpose in life. We start out seemingly rooted in reality, but as the film progresses things get more and more crazy. We seem to be living inside Caden's head, everything that happens is the way he might imagine it in his self-pitying, self-loathing, hypocondriatic mind. From beginning to end this movie had me thoroughly confused. I never felt like I knew what the hell was going on. The director does whatever he wants, and doesn't care if it isn't normal or logical. For example, one character is with her real estate agent shopping for houses. They visit this one house, and it is on fire. They acknowledge it is on fire, but it is treated as a minor inconvenience. I just imagine her weighing her options and thinking about the houses she had seen. " I loved the living room in the second house, but it had a small closet in the master bedroom... and it was on fire." The character even makes a comment about eventually dying from the smoke inhalation. Anyway, she buys this house, and for the rest of the movie it is on fire. That is just effed up, but I really liked it. I mean, why the heck was that house on fire and what did it symbolize? Surely it meant something, but I am not really sure what. There are lots of other things in this film that are equally thought provoking and confusing.

 I haven't even described the whole premise of the story yet. Caden's wife leaves him, and she takes their daughter with her. This seems to be where his neurosis begins. He seems to be tumbling through life, looking for some meaning. He then wins a grant that will give him enough money to create his own play. He realizes this is his big chance to do something "important", and decides to make a play about his own life. He rents a warehouse that contains a life-sized replica of the city where he lives. He goes out and finds actors to play all the characters from his own life, including an actor to play him. There are scenes taking place in the "real" world with the real people, then we will see them reenacted in this fake-world with the actors. At some point the two worlds become blurred and the fake world starts impacting the real world, which in turn impacts how things will go in the fake world. It all gets very messed up. To confuse things even further the character playing Caden in the play gets to the part where he decides to make a play about his life. Therefore the character playing Caden has to find somebody to play him in the 3rd iteration of this guy's life. All of the scenes are being treated like a rehearsal, not like the actual performance. This goes on for years as Caden becomes an old man. All the while, the are supposedly preparing for some grand performance that will take place sometime in the future. The ending is equally as confusing and messed up as the rest of the film, and I am not even going to attempt to give my interpretations of its meaning.

I enjoy movies that confuse me, but usually we are rewarded with at least a bit of an explanation. I can tell you that this movie isn't going to give you anything in the way of explanations. It is however, going to let you ponder everything in your own head and allow you to make sense out of it based on how you relate with the character. I was fairly engaged by this movie even though it has an extremely slow pace. Sometimes you feel like you are watching paint dry, and there is no apparent purpose for the scene. This is a signature of most artsy movies, but at times this one got a little too slow even for my liking. I can easily forgive that because of the unique and expressive dialog in this film. There were great moments between characters, and wonderful lines that make you stop and think. I really enjoyed this film, but will only hesitatingly recommend it. It isn't for everyone, but I think it will strike a chord with most that do watch it.


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