Kaufman's SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is a five-star masterpiece

PUBLISHED: 12:04 15 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:11 07 September 2010

This is a film that has perplexed, infuriated and angered audiences and been deemed by some as unreleasable. But I m here to tell you that this is the simplest, most straightforward film you will ever see. Kaufman has previously delighted audiences with

This is a film that has perplexed, infuriated and angered audiences and been deemed by some as unreleasable. But I'm here to tell you that this is the simplest, most straightforward film you will ever see.

Kaufman has previously delighted audiences with scripts for films including Eternal Sunshine and Being John Malkovich. Now, in his first stab at directing he has produced the film Woody Allen has been grasping towards his whole career - and that's not necessarily a compliment.

The neurosis, the angst, the hypochondria, the fear of death, fear of rejection, fear of acceptance, the futility of life in a godless universe and the multitude of women throwing themselves at a not conventionally attractive male lead (Hoffman looks increasingly like Andy from Little Britain), it's all here.

It is Stardust Memoirs and Deconstructing Harry taken to painful extremes. Hoffman is Caden Cotard, a theatre director in a troubled marriage, who fears he may have a terminal illness. He then wins some kind of vague genius award and starts to produce a play in an enormous hanger in New York, where he builds an enormous set that encompasses his whole life.

The play's the thing wherein he'll capture all the horrors of existence.

After a relatively straightforward opening the narrative fragments as the movie is filled with doubles and actors playing other characters and people swapping parts and within a couple of hours a simple path has become a maze.

It's dazzlingly inventive, both verbally and visually, but in a non-dazzling way. Kaufman covers it in a plodding oppressive air of moping male self-pity (in its own way this is as manly a movie as The Wild Bunch or The Dirty Dozen), which is not an easy atmosphere for audiences to get through. If you can take it then it is a painfully raw, moving experience.

Because it really is nothing more than a man unburdening himself of all his fears. I don't think there's a positive emotion in this whole film - maybe some love, but that is fleeting.

The theatricality of it all is infectious - you should have heard the exaggerated yawns and stretching of some audience members. At the London Film Festival screening, a man shouted "rubbish" at the end and I think that's as valid as calling it a masterpiece. It is an artless art movie; a masterpiece most will have no use for; a unique, extraordinary vision; an attempt at the doing whole damn (male slanted) human experience in two hours.

Synecdoche,

New York (15)

Director Charlie Kaufman Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener and Emily Watson

124 mins

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