Synecdoche: New York

According to the ticket taker, there’s no consensus on how to pronounce it.


A failed film is always better than a good one.
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Reported on 26th of October, 2008

Due to popular demand (my friend Bob), I am going to write a few paragraphs about every movie I see. These are not reviews, and are only intended for people who have seen the films. They may and will contain spoilers, but they will also not contain information about the film. It’s more to talk about what makes movies good and bad, in my opinion, which, since everyone has an ‘I’, is the only opinion that counts. If you haven’t seen the movie, you will be bored. If you have, you will probably be bored.

Synecdoche: New York

25 October 2008 @ The West Los Angeles Landmark


$8.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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I used to see pretty much everything that came out, around 250-300 films a year. I save my ticket stubs, so I can prove it. I’ve been in the theater six times completely by myself (most recently last week, at Max Payne, which will probably be the next entry). If I said a movie was the worst film of the year, it probably was. I’m down to about 100 these days, and this journal starts, appropriately enough with Synecdoche, New York, a movie that belongs somewhere in the middle of film history.

Like Adaptation before it, it’s the kid who gets a homework assignment, and cleverly writes about the fact that he got a homework assignment.


The surrealist genre may seem to be all free-floating, but the classic films are complete; every scene, every character, refers to a central idea. Films like Naked Lunch, Stalker, Week-end, and That Obscure Object of Desire achieve greatness because there’s no extraneous business. When you’re watching them, there’s a strong sense of confusion, but never a sense that the filmmaker is lost. This is even true about lesser works, like Treasure Island.

Synecdoche, New York suffers from being about too many things, love, death, language, disease, truth, and unfortunately, I could go on. Like Adaptation before it, it’s the kid who gets a homework assignment, and cleverly writes about the fact that he got a homework assignment. I am, says Charlie Kaufman, going to make a movie about everything, and how you can’t make a movie about everything. Well, he’s right. You can’t.

And while we’re on the subject, what is the obsession with death? We’re all going to die…and? I mean, consider the alternative. It’s like if people kept making movies about gravity. Why can’t we all just float, man? You’re here for as long as you are. Deal with it. In the words of ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic, “You will never find true happiness, whatcha gonna do, cry about it?”

Proof!

Proof!

That all being said, there’s supposedly a tradition among French film critics, or there was anyway, not to criticize independent films that they don’t like. They simply won’t write about them. Since I’m more interested in what movies can be and aren’t, I have to say this movie has its moments, and since it’s really, really long, there are quite a few of them. For all his kvetching about death, this is a guy who really understands love, and when the main characters, such as they might be called, finally get together at the end of the film at age 60-90, I cried like a schoolboy. When he wants to, that kid can write.

Whatever criticism I might have, there are scenes of dazzling brilliance, and I’m glad I got to see them. Near the end of the film, a preacher gives a spectacular speech about how, like everyone on earth, he’s suffering, but he pretends he isn’t so other people won’t feel bad. The details, the poetry, and the truth of his pain burn through the screen. He’s tired of it, and he ends, in a surprisingly powerful way, by saying, “Fuck everyone.” I would rather, and did gladly, sit through a flawed movie for moments like this, than a ‘good’ movie like Elizabeth or (shutter), Atonement. So, fuck everyone, including me.

Profits!
Pretentious Interesting Parts
$4.50
Four (4) Tears (@ $0.50 each)
$2.00
Failure, Glorious Failure
$7.00
Total Profits
$13.50
Losses!
Pretentious Boring Parts
$2.00
Insight that Death is Bad.
$3.00
Total Losses
$5.00

$8.50

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