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Sun November 16, 2008
Synecdoche, New York
A challenging mess
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players . . ."
Synecdoche, New York, like the literary term in its title, might stand for all our lives as director Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) attempts a gigantic stage construction of to depict his tumultuous life. Hamlet 2 it is not?it's a serious attempt by cerebral and creative writer Charlie Kaufman to deal with the muses and mistakes of a life worth noticing, in this case where Caden has won a MacArthur.
Caden eventually creates a discursive and massive stage play peopled by ex lovers who help him try to gain meaning out of a sometimes bleak Brecht or Beckett landscape. Kaufman takes us into and out of time and place, characters and ideas, so that to survive the viewing, we must allow him to digress and symbolize to distraction. The recurring motif of a house on the brink of burning down signifies the nearness of insanity and even death.
The specter of Death overshadows all else and serves as a catalyst for the artist's grand opus. It also allows him to muse on the meaning of life and the challenges of art, the former leaning toward a pantheistic notion that we are all made up of the people we have loved. Shakespeare's notion of the world as stage is more appropriate here than ever.
Artistically Kaufman is more in David Lynch land than anywhere else; I'm comfortable with that although the producers should not wait for the profits to roll in anytime soon?it's a challenging mess.
Caden Cotard: "I know how to do it now. There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They're all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain?action=sectionIndex&sid=13 . Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com