08 November 2008

Review: Synecdoche, NY


Genre: Drama

To be as succinct as I can about Mr. Kaufman's latest feature, I must say, it was not what I expected - but then his films never are really, are they? Certainly, to some extent, Synecdoche, New York was the approbated drama, filled with all the psychoanalytical remorse and dalliances into memory as is any of Mr. Kaufman's plays; but frankly more often than it was so was it dry, flaky, and overly contrived. While Mr. Kaufman certainly does have a gift for approaching ingeniously derived subjects and subject matters, he however does not always have the ability - despite what some of his sycophantically blinded followers may protest as contrary opinion - to elucidate the delicate meanings and arguments within those subjects and/or subject matters without simultaneously maintaining the rich entanglements of the feature in the first hand. That is, perhaps, sometimes he is too clever even for his good and unwittingly and unintentionally outfoxes himself, or boxes himself into a corner, as he - in my opinion - has done here. For, as the main character (sufficiently but not more so played by Mr. Seymour-Hoffman) devolves into the complexities of the increasingly out-of-control-yet-headed-nowhere beast that he has charged into the theatrical and ontological world of New York City, he like Kaufman finds himself less and less able to see his way out of those complexities; and so, Kaufman tries to hack through them, with brute force instead of intellectual cunning, and in his wake unfortunately leaves a trail of dried and desiccated, severed limbs.
In short, his ending feels like no more closure than a hastily inserted plug into an otherwise wildly continuous spout of filmmaking; the elements of the plot, which - like the metaphysics they synecdochize - but ride around in circles, are only ceased in the midst of their flailing, ever agglomerating loops by a sudden blow as by - o, say - a mass suicide or likewise deus ex machina, which - though Mr. Kaufman attempts to sublimate it by placing it in the far distance dramatically speaking (i. e., barely audible and entirely invisible to the theater-going audience) - are nevertheless rough, empty, and exposed - and indeed are as much so as the aftermath of his lead character's replicated New York City. The point is for Mr. Kaufman, however, not that this abrupt cessation was all that was at the end of Synecdoche, New York - for an ending of its kind could have been reasonably justified with the proper precedents - but rather that it was all that could be, because of the way he had argumentatively boxed himself in and into the corner - or, more appropriately, the eye's center of that whirlwind symbolical storm; his logic was circular, his pattern repetitive, his premise elaborately Ereberotic. And, though in the past he had been able to conquer Ereberos (e. g., in 2002's brilliant Adaptation.), here and now he is not and does not. His lead, Mr. Seymour-Hoffman's dour and rumbling Caden Cotard wastes away before any meaningful conclusions are reached, the grim decay of an endless cycle. And, while we're all for morbid and fatalistic regrets and recognitions here, Mr. Kaufman, this dog just won't hunt; as Mr. Cotard might well have been warned, progress without purpose, without change, is really only stasis, but for the intransigent or the optimist.
Applause for Ms. Morton, however; her Hazel was wonderful.

Grade: C+ - Break the ring!

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