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Monday Movie Review: Synecdoche March 1, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Movie review instead of a book review? Yes. Sorry netizens and bibliophiles, but I’m suffering from an acute version of Seasonal Affective Disorder combined with ennui and am just generally unmotivated. So instead of reading during this crippling blizzard I watched a number of movies one of which had me yelling out to no one, “What the #*&% is going on?” I texted a number of friends asking for their insights mid-movie; I Googled; I Bing-ed; and then I calmed down, watched the entirety of Synecdoche and saw the light!

Synecdoche, the directorial debut of Oscar award-winning writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is a whirlwind of a movie, to say the least. Synecdoche is defined as, “a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa” (New Oxford American Dictionary). The movie uses synecdoche in a number of ways: [1] the movie encompasses the bulk of the lifetime of screen director Caden Cotard [2] Cotard’s play attempts to recreate an entire world – both through the action of the characters and visually – by building a replica of New York City. If you’re already lost, don’t fret, it’s understandable. Let me start from the beginning.

Cotard lives in Schenectady, New York (which sounds uncannily like Synecdoche, New York). He is a playwriter/director in a struggling marriage to an artist and has a young daughter whom he loves very much. He is obsessed with different medical maladies which seem to appear and disappear at will. His wife leaves him and he begins an affair with Hazel, the girl who runs the box office. He is awarded a large grant to put on a new play and this is when he decides that his play will encompass life in total, with all of its pitfalls and triumphs. He then embarks on writing, creating, and staging a play which includes building a replica of the city and a replica of his life. The creation of this play takes decades and is never actually staged. As the play begins to converge with Cotard’s life, action becomes more confusing and more playful. Actors play Cotard, Cotard plays actors playing him or has an actor playing the actor that was playing him, etc. etc.

While the movie is disconnected and confusing at points, the imagery and the central message are beautiful and I found myself haunted by this movie. The quotes from it are just amazing as well. What I have shared barely scratches the surface of the movie so if you are interested in a more in-depth analysis, I found this great blog post that delves deeper into Kaufman’s maniacal mind. Enjoy!



1. mike - March 2, 2010

I recall that Synecdoche was very well reviewed last year, but I had forgotten about it recently.
I really liked Being John Malkovich a number of years ago, but I have to say the Eternal Sunshine is not a favorite of mine.

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