Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Synecdoche, New York

Okay. So ultimate theatre/reading experience in the form of a film? Maybe. Trip into madness – definitely? I recently watched the film Synecdoche, New York, and I have still—after about ten days—been digesting it and thinking about it. I have already told several people about my experience of watching it, which was basically sheer laughter. I felt like I was experiencing hysteria, or possibly some other form of neurosis, as I was watching the film. Having said that, you might think I thought it was awful, but in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the “film” in that it provided a very nice phenomenological experience. In fact, it was in many ways a wonderful cap to the past two years of my academic career.

One of the reasons I decided to finally rent the movie was because of this article by Hermione Hoby from Guardian about Synecdoche, New York the film as the postmodern novel. I was intrigued by the title, and Hoby’s analysis of it is all the more intriguing. She starts by stating that: “A few days ago I airily declared to a colleague that cinema never really did it for me, not as much as fiction, in any case. I'd always rather read a novel than watch a film. That snooty belief in the superiority of the written word has been as happily shaken up as my boggled brain itself since I emerged from a screening of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York.” She goes on to talk about a Q & A after the screening in which many people asserted that Kaufmann was influenced by such-and-such novel only to be told no. Hoby continues, “Likewise, these perceived novelistic borrowings are most likely just that - perceived: any good piece of art probably reminds a million people of a million different things.” And I had the same sort of response. The fact that this so psychological and cerebral lends itself to this extreme multivalency in which the film radiates and reverberated everywhere.

For another review/resource to talk about the film, I checked out my friend’s blog and his entry on the film from a while ago. I think what he was to say is quite true: “Unfortunately, and I know how elitist this sounds, most people don't like movies because they don't respect them as a living, breathing thing, and Synecdoche, New York is nothing if not that.” The film is that—“a living, breathing thing.” Its essence smacks you in the face when you watch, and my own reaction to the film echoes his reading of the film. “When I recommend it, I'm recommending it not as a film, but as an experience that no two people will receive in the same way. It's kind of a miracle that it exists at all, and if you like movies, you should see it.” I sort of felt the same way when I read Ulysses…that this book was all about experience and that trying to control that experience or mold it into someone else’s reading would be detrimental because the whole point is to have that original, untainted (if there can be such a thing) experience.

Here’s a trailer for the film:

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