Synecdoche, New York – Sledge’s (Small) Take

synecdoche – /sinekd ki/
• noun a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in England lost by six wickets (meaning ‘the English cricket team’).
– ORIGIN Greek sunekdokhe, from sun- ‘together’ + ekdekhesthai ‘take up’.


Charlie Kaufman is without doubt one of the most original scriptwriters on Earth, inventing worlds in Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. He’s never tried helming one of his ideas in a director’s chair.

Until now.

His feature directorial debut is here at last, and I’ve seen it.
Synecdoche, New York is another baffling, surreal, and personal story for Charlie. There is so much going on his flick. It’s about ideas that play around with time, space, emotions , set design, relationships, health, the idea of character and reality. Seinfeld’s 4th Season story arc, Hamlet, Tennessee Williams’ The Two-Character Play and other “play within a play” themes float about in this script/film.

Theatre director Caden’s (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) passion to direct his (extremely) ambitious masterpiece is the focus of the movie. Caden becomes gradually riddled with unhappiness. Marriage down the drain and his health is letting him down. So when he receives a grant for his work he see this opportunity as a way to cope with the stress. The project is insane and ambitious in equal measures.

It’s a bold, weird and massive film (in timescale as well as scope) to digest. It’s also cold, brutal and a little cruel in places. Don’t let that put you off , it has genuine moments scattered throughout the film.

Everything here is near perfect. A unhinged mixture of warmth and melancholy.

The 3rd act’s pace needed tidying up, tightening and played with. Gondy, or Jonze would have shown him the way.

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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