Friday, April 10, 2009

Synecdoche, New York – a film review

(Note: I am not someone who normally reads, or writes, or enjoys, or supports the right of others to be involved with, film reviews. But a movie I recently… ‘experienced’… was profound enough an occurrence that I could not resist.)

I watched the first hour of Charlie Kaufman’s latest filmatic endeavor Synecdoche, New York, but only because I, like most responsible gun owners, keep the bullets separate from my firearm and I did that classic thing where I forgot where I put them. I checked the closet for rattley shoeboxes, looked in the drawer of my bedside table, the junk drawer in the kitchen, gas tank on the car… And I thought to myself “Isn’t this exactly what the ‘right to arms’ activists are always warning you against? That you’ll finally have an urgent need for your weapon, like to put you out of the misery of watching another painful second of a terrible movie, and you won’t be prepared for the moment?”

Let me say, by the way, that I have very much enjoyed previous Charlie Kaufman movies. Like Adaptation? And also that Spotless Mind one, that was cool, as well as Being John Malkovich. And what was that one… Stranger Than Fiction! I loved that movie! The part where the narrator says “he cursed the heavens” and Harold Crick is all “No, I’m cursing YOU!, you stupid voice!!” Awesome. Anyway, my point is it’s not just that I don’t get from where Charlie Kaufman’s brain comes (or that my not getting it automatically makes me not like the attempt). Sometimes it’s the not getting it that I like the best because it’s like he’s filming a regular story but with the camera turned around like you’re looking through the “out” part of a pair of binoculars! (I checked and he didn’t do Stranger Than Fiction. Someone named Zach Helm did. Who was previously known for nothing I’ve ever heard of. So whatever. That movie was still awesome.)

It’s just that with THIS Charlie Kaufman movie I realized fairly early on (I’m gonna say the 3rd scene?) that there was nobody but NOBODY to like. Or cheer on or even not hate. And yet there was this natural desire to find someone I could cheer on. And if you’re watching Synecdoche, New York (pronounced “Help, I’m trapped in a box of pain and evil and can’t get out!!!”) and you’re trying to find someone to like I will warn you now: don’t do it. You will try and try and it won’t work and in the end you’ll just end up chewing off your face or the face of a friend or loved one in the vicinity. In fact, for the health and welfare of faces everywhere just don’t even watch this movie. Consider this one of those PSA's, and right about now that flying rainbow star-thing will arc across this blog and it will say “The More You Know” or “Now You Know” or “I Know, Right?” or something like that.

After the first hour of Synecdoche, New York (which, by the way, took 13 hours, 27 minutes and 4 seconds to live through) my soul collapsed under its own sad weight and I fell into a deep coma of sorrow and self-loathing. And I also started fast-forwarding through the movie. I’d been told that it was longer than average, but it turned out to be just about 2 hours. It just FEELS much longer than average, by a power of about 12. But having watched the second half at 4-times the normal running speed I realize NOW that it’s actually a short feature, about 30 minutes long (still too long, but better) about a sad, pathetic man who lives a long, painful, life amongst equally terrible and pathetic people and then dies. Or thinks he dies, or he pretends to die, or someone else dies and he really empathizes with them, or something. It was really fast.

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