Synecdoche, New York

Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Very funny and equally as quirky, SYNECDOCHE, NY is not a film that will cheer you up. An intricate film about a theatre director who creates a continuous play portraying his life as it’s happening, this is an ambitious but deadly serious contemplation of life and its inevitable end.

If you are a fan of Kaufman’s work (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION) you will have some idea of what to expect. Kaufman’s films have always been touched by a certain kind of genius, but he outdoes himself splendidly in this latest venture.

The life and body of theatre director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are falling apart. A man totally obsessed with death and dying, he’s killing his own relationship with his wife Adele (Catherine Keener) and to make matters worse he seems to have picked up a mysterious disease that is beginning to shut down his autonomic functions one by one.

Sick of him taking the concept of hypochondria to previously unseen levels, Adele leaves for an art fair in Berlin with their 4 year old daughter, Olive, and never comes back. Heartbroken, Caden flounders helplessly in the doldrums, despite the attention of the equally eccentric Hazel (the brilliant Samantha Morton).

A man who just hasn’t got the hang of life, relationships or communication other than through the medium of theatre, he wins a prestigious bursary and hires a massive warehouse in New York to create a ‘true’ and ‘honest’ piece of art that he can leave behind to humankind. Turning inwards on himself, his theme is death and dying and the struggle towards it, and he begins to recreate his own life in its current state by employing actors to play himself and the various women involved in his life.

Affecting, thought-provoking, and with a generous sense of humanity, in the middle the film gets a little consumed by itself but stands as a very funny, very bleak and quirky take on human nature.

4 out of 6 stars

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