Synecdoche, New York

( 6 )

Overview

Synecdoche, New York marked the directorial debut of iconoclastic, cerebral screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Caden Cotard, an eccentric playwright who lives with artist Adele Lack Catherine Keener and their daughter Olive in Schenectady, upstate New York. Prone to neuroses, misgivings and enormous self-doubt, Caden also begins suffering from accelerated physical deterioration - from blood in his stools to disfigured skin. Upon receiving a prestigious MacArthur grant, Caden decides to ...
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Overview

Synecdoche, New York marked the directorial debut of iconoclastic, cerebral screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Caden Cotard, an eccentric playwright who lives with artist Adele Lack Catherine Keener and their daughter Olive in Schenectady, upstate New York. Prone to neuroses, misgivings and enormous self-doubt, Caden also begins suffering from accelerated physical deterioration - from blood in his stools to disfigured skin. Upon receiving a prestigious MacArthur grant, Caden decides to use the money to concoct one gigantic play as an analogue of his own life; he builds massive sets amid a New York City warehouse, casts others as his friends, family and acquaintances, and casts others to play the ones he's casting. After Adele whisks Olive off to Europe but demonstrates no sign of returning soon, Caden drifts into a series of relationships with lovers - first with box office employee Hazel Samantha Morton, who purchases and moves into a house that is perpetually on fire; then with Tammy Emily Watson, an actress assigned to play Hazel in the theatrical project; and subsequently with others. Unfortunately, the play itself grows so big and unwieldy - and rehearsals go on for so long, taking literally decades - that it becomes unclear if the production itself will ever launch.
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Special Features

BD Live; In and Around Synecdoche, New York; The Story of Caden Cotard: In Conversation With Philip Seymour Hoffman; Infectious Diseases in Cattle: Blogger's Roundtable; Screen Animations; NFTS/Script Masterclass with Charlie Kaufman
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Before graduating to the ranks of director with Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Kaufman established himself as arguably the most talented screenwriter of his generation -- a fact that earned him the right to make his directorial debut as purposefully alienating as possible. The story concerns theater director Caden Cotard Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, after winning the MacArthur genius grant, decides to stage an epic theatrical production about his life. His stated goal is to create something brutally honest, and to that end, he hires actresses who each bear a striking physical resemblance to the women he's loved. He then rehearses them to reenact actual arguments he had with the various ladies in question, in a process that drags on for decades, with Caden eventually hiring actors to play the actors he hired in the first place. This sounds humorously convoluted in theory, but Kaufman, who has designed the movie specifically to deny a viewer any conventional pleasure, has no interest in charming us. Right from the start, Caden is utterly disengaged from his real life -- his massive theater piece is an attempt to understand how he got that way -- and Kaufman utilizes every tool at a filmmaker's disposal lighting, editing, music, etc. to make the audience share Caden's total emotional impotence. Kaufman has written about this kind of pain in his previous scripts; Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation each carry a heavy dose of existential angst. But the directors he's collaborated with have always found a way to make all that pain and struggle remain meaningful for the characters -- and therefore, for the audience as well. Working as a director for the first time, Kaufman tackles his main theme so unsparingly he provides barely a single concession to the viewer aside from casting brilliant actors like Hoffman, Emily Watson, Samantha Morton, and Catherine Keener. The result is a straight shot of pure undiluted Charlie Kaufman -- he makes Caden's angst and pain and helplessness and self-loathing feel agonizingly palpable from the first moment to the last. The film never condescends to Caden's emotions, and because of this, you get the sense that Kaufman is sharing his own turmoil -- and for his sake, let's hope that darkness is just a small fraction of his inner-self. In an idea that he's hinted at in his previous scripts, Synecdoche is very much about the dangers of the artist confusing art with life, and more so here than it's ever done in the past, this theme seems to insert Kaufman himself into the story. The film doesn't conjure up any of the characters as vividly as it does the idea of Kaufman, sitting behind the camera, orchestrating everything before you as a giant, tangled expression of how he feels. The thought that Kaufman himself might be this conflicted about his own artistic gifts is disheartening -- especially because it seems like no other topic interests him as much. But by that same token, there will probably be a cult for this movie no matter what Kaufman does for the rest of his career. The emotional commitment from the director, and the film's weird, offbeat rhythms, guarantee that there will be a niche of fans who will respond strongly to it. But, looking forward for Kaufman, it doesn't seem possible he could have much more to say on the dangers of living in your own head. Synecdoche, New York is the kind of movie that only exceedingly talented filmmakers can get away with, and usually only once in a career. Charlie Kaufman is that talented, but he picked a dangerously early point to cash in his free pass.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/10/2009
  • UPC: 043396301634
  • Original Release: 2008
  • Rating:

  • Source: Sony Pictures
  • Region Code: ABC
  • Presentation: Wide Screen / Subtitled
  • Sound: Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound
  • Time: 2:04:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 16,853

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Philip Seymour Hoffman Caden Cotard
Samantha Morton Hazel
Michelle Williams Claire Keen
Catherine Keener Adele Lack
Emily Watson Tammy
Dianne Wiest Ellen Bascomb/Millicent Weems
Jennifer Jason Leigh Maria
Hope Davis Madeleine Gravis
Tom Noonan Sammy Barnathan
Sadie Goldstein Olive (Age 4)
Robin Weigert Olive (Adult)
Daniel London Tom
Robert Seay David
Stephen Adly-Guirgis Davis
Frank Girardeau Plumber
Paul Sparks Derek
Jerry Adler Caden's Father
Lynn Cohen Caden's Mother
Peter Friedman Emergency Room Doctor
Charles Techman Like Clockwork Patient
Josh Pais Opthamologist
Amy Wright Burning House Realtor
Deirdre O'Connell Ellen's Mother
Kat Peters Ellen (10 Years Old)
John Rothman Dentist
Michael Higgins
Technical Credits
Charlie Kaufman Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Anthony Bregman Producer
Jon Brion Score Composer
H.H. Cooper Asst. Director
Frederick Elmes Cinematographer
Robert Frazen Editor
Mark Friedberg Production Designer
Eugene Gearty Sound/Sound Designer
Bonnie Greenberg Musical Direction/Supervision
William Horberg Executive Producer
Spike Jonze Producer
Sidney Kimmel Producer
Drew Kunin Sound Mixer
Jeanne McCarthy Casting
Adam Stockhausen Art Director
Bruce Toll Executive Producer
Melissa Toth Costumes/Costume Designer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(5)

4 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Maddeningly Impossible to Follow: A Terrific Surrealistic Adventure

    SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is a firecracker display that sets the audience up for a grand epic of adventures then sputters its lovable way through over two hours of loosely connected views of life as we live it - through the eyes of an increasingly physically disabled director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Trying to summarize what the story is and does is always as risky task when it comes to Charlie Kaufman films and the audience for this work will be decidedly separated between the love it or hate it division.

    Kaufman manages to address so many issues (marriage, adultery, joblessness, that thin thread of sanity that keeps actors committed to impossibly complex problematic productions, etc) that keeping up with the nonlinear story line is challenging at best. But with a cast of characters as finely portrayed by actors such as Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh et al, the whole crazy film works wonders on the imagination. This is pure entertainment for the sake of entertainment and while Caden Cotard does represent Everyman searching for some semblance of meaning in a universe that makes little sense (except that death is inevitable!), it is the process more than the dialogue that makes this film such a pleasure to follow. Charlie Kaufman has done it again....Grady Harp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews