Random thoughts



The Substream's Film Lab

Home » Reviews

Synecdoche, New York – beautiful art at its very weirdest!

Submitted by on March 6, 2009 – 12:44 amNo Comment

synecdocheNow there are weird things in life and there are the films that are written by Charlie Kaufman. Responsible for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being he is certainly quite prepared to go down avenues that others dare to tread.

Well Mr Kaufman who is the epitome of the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” in that he doesn’t seem to care if the viewer “gets it” or not. This then causes problems as the layman (i.e. me) often watches his films and thinks that they are magnificent, yet doesn’t spot most of the symbolism.


A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play


The synopsis (source: IMDB) to this movie doesn’t come close to explaining the film in which you see. In fact nothing could ever describe what is shown in the movie adequately. This then is likely to become a subject of great debate throughout many years to come (or completely ignored as the iPod generation don’t have the attention span to cope with it).

For his part, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a role (as Caden Cotard) that is complex to say the least. He embraces the ambiguity of the piece well and as a simple hypochondriac or a masterful director of theatre he adapts to the needs of the tale.

Accompanying him on this very weird ride is that of Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, and Samantha Morton (the weird from Minority Report). It is Morton who shines above the rest of the cast along with Tom Noonan (who plays Sammy, who plays Cotard). Confused? You will be.

Synecdoche, New York is film that many will think is pretentious twaddle. For me though (being an incredibly pretentious ) it was quite beautiful. The entire concept of the film must be applauded as when you watch it, you have to consider how deeply the story has been written. There is no question that much of what I saw I didn’t understand fully but therein lies the beauty of it. If you were to look at the Mona Lisa you may think that it is a good painting, but there are others around the world who could speak for hours about the symbolism involved in Michaelangelo’s work.

Time flows by so incredibly quickly through the film that you start to doubt that what you’re seeing is genuine (as opposed to a dream). This was surely intentional but you feel somewhat rushed through some important events on occasions.

Synecdoche, New York is a story within a story within a story. The fact that it confuses you is certainly the intention but after about 90 minutes you feel as if you have bitten off more than you can chew. No help is given by the ending though and you are left (when you get home) lying in bed trying to figure out what you just saw and getting no sleep at all. This is certainly no first (or second) date movie. In fact it is for a small selection of dreamers and art lovers who were not completely confused by films such as Southland Tales. It is for non-french wearers. You know: the types of people who wear the attire of a stereotypical director but have never even held a camcorder in their life.

No-one would ever doubt that Synecdoche, New York is an intellectual film but perhaps it is a little too smart-arsed for everyone. The only people who would truly recommend it to you are those who know for a fact that you’ll be bewildered by it. In this then, is a perfect wind-up for your friends. Tell them that they must see the quite excellent Synecdoche, New York and after they admit to seeing it, ask them the ultimate question: “did you get it”? No doubt that this will separate the truly pretentious from the slightly arty folk as whatever they answer could be argued and discussed until the cows come home. If you think there is some ambiguity in the Bible then you clearly have not appreciated this movie yet!


This is art at its very weirdest. You certainly will be enamoured by it but if ever asked to explain “why” then I suggest you take a very serious look into the questioner’s eyes and state “you simply wouldn’t understand”.

I for one would to watch it over and over again if only to figure out what the hell was going on. For me it is one of the film greats but like most of the well reviewed films, it just won’t appeal to everyone.

If you like art and theatre then take a chance with this. I’ll promise you that you’ll love it or hate it. Either you’ll want to come out of the cinema and buy a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie just to calm you down or you will walk away thinking you have an insight into life that most do not.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Comments are closed.