Monday, May 18, 2009

Synecdoche, New York

Neither the sun nor death can be looked at with a steady eye, said a clever man, and films about death are as rare as hen’s teeth. Real death, that is, not Hollywood death in a hail of bullets or from some fatal but apparently mostly painless disease, contracted perhaps as the result of questionable moral choices in the Sixties. Synecdoche, New York is about the shape of life and then “the only end of life”. It’s perhaps the strangest and most involuted film I can recall. It’s also intensely sad, although rarely in a heart-tuggingly manipulative way. It's more about the steady accumulation of defeats, that slow motion pitiable crash of most people’s lives. Synecdoche is a figure of speech where the part stands for the whole; keeping track of the levels of correspondence, from character to character, from director to character, from Kaufman to Caden Cotard, is all but impossible; you keep getting floored by sudden connections long after the film has finished. There's none of the comedy of Kaufman's previous screen-plays, though there is much narrative and visual wit. Mostly there are melancholic echoes and disturbing revelations and jolting narrative jumps and morose proclamations; all the epiphanies turn out to be fleeting, provisional. Like life.

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