Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Synecdoche, New York is an interesting take on ‘post modern surrealism’, seemingly based on Bunuel’s 70s era work with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, it tells the tale of one man, Caden Cotard, a theatre director in upstate New York. When we are introduced into his narrative, he is in a dying marriage, and somehow, after the separation and divorce, the narrative wildly falls out of control. Time becomes in flux and meaningless. Characters drift in and out of his life. Cotard wins the “McArthur Genius Grant’ and stages a production where he ‘tells the truth’ (objective truth) of his life, through a never ending and cyclical use of actors and stages, until it literally becomes a stage, within a stage, within a stage ....
Interesting? Yes. Interesting in the wild narcissism as portrayed by Charlie Kaufmann on screen. When ‘staging the play’, it does look at the ‘unreality’ of creative work in the movies, and particularly screenwriting and direction. Cotard tries to control all of his life and interacting characters within it through the use of play, and the ideas of the reality of a ‘writer’ and ‘director’ are explored rather cleverly and can seen as a ‘sister’ film to Truffaut’s Day for Night. Nonetheless, the failure of the film comes forth in the final stages, where the main character realises that they are other people in the world beyond him, all who have narratives that he cannot control. It’s the sort of self realisation that a 13 year old kid has, not the realisation that one should base an entire two hour flick on. Kinda defeated by the narcissistic premise of the end.