Synedoche, New York (15)

Film

Comedy drama

Synecdoche_New_York_2_new.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Wed Oct 1 2008

This is as neurotic in its inquiry and as experimental in its telling as you might expect from the first film as writer/director from the man who penned Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Hoffman is Caden Cotard, a theatre director of middling talent in Schenectady, New York (the film’s title is a corruption of the place name), whose life begins to unravel when his wife (Keener) leaves him for Berlin taking his young daughter with her. Ensuing relationships with Hazel, the theatre receptionist (Morton), and Claire, an actress (Williams), both fail and Hoffman’s reaction to his crumbling life is to embark on a sprawling, warehouse-size theatre piece that mirrors the mundanity of the everydaylife of him and everybody around him. This interest in the artist being consumed by his own work echoes Adaptation. The film’s mood turns from comic paranoia (think early Woody Allen) to confusing and despairing as new cast members assume theatrical alter egos (Noonan for Cotard, Watson for Hazel), the years go by, characters age, and the theatre piece is never ready. Deeply ambitious, it’s genius at some points. But at others, it barely connects.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri May 15, 2009

Duration:

124 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:9
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|30
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David

If one has the choice between doing something original or something good, choose to do something good. If one has the choice between showing one's intelligence or one's compassion, choose to show the compassion. Kaufman doesn't agree. Shitnecdoche New York is all about showing off, with a very unpleasant view of life. Best avoided unless you're a grown-up with the heart of an angst-laden emo teen (It's all so unfair! And so meaningless! Poor me, poor me!).

Hal Pierce

Amazing work of art. Most films have very little on their mind, if anything. Finally a film about something that matters. Kauffman has given serious thinkers something to consider. I am amused at the reaction of so many mainstream reviewers who see their job as helping the masses avoid films they won't understand or appreciate. Yes the mainstream viewer will be disgusted by the shots of shit in the toilet (When was the last time you saw that?!) Yes they will be bored and confused (What? No robots?!) but for the true cinema fan this film is a gift. Read Roger Ebert's review (it's linked at IMDB and MRQE). It strikes new ground as a philosophical work in itself. My life was enriched by this film. I laughed 100 times and saw a dozen truths that will stay with me for a very long while. Bravo.

Hal Pierce

Amazing work of art. Most films have very little on their mind, if anything. Finally a film about something that matters. Kauffman has given serious thinkers something to consider. I am amused at the reaction of so many mainstream reviewers who see their job as helping the masses avoid films they won't understand or appreciate. Yes the mainstream viewer will be disgusted by the shots of shit in the toilet (When was the last time you saw that?!) Yes they will be bored and confused (What? No robots?!) but for the true cinema fan this film is a gift. Read Roger Ebert's review (it's linked at IMDB and MRQE). It strikes new ground as a philosophical work in itself. My life was enriched by this film. I laughed 100 times and saw a dozen truths that will stay with me for a very long while. Bravo.

MIKE

greatest film of it's type ever. the most Truth, with the least amount of pretention. Whah, it didn't have enough action Whah, it didn't have enough romance Whah, it got too many stars and tries to be too smart it's not for everyone, and yet is a gift for anyone who is willing and able to get it...

MIKE

greatest film of it's type ever. the most Truth, with the least amount of pretention. Whah, it didn't have enough action Whah, it didn't have enough romance Whah, it got too many stars and tries to be too smart it's not for everyone, and yet is a gift for anyone who is willing and able to get it...

Jane

I agree - but you miss two important things in saying it is unbearably depressing . It is about difficultly and it does ruthlessly attack some of the ways we force meaning into the chaotic material of life. There is , however, a heavy vien of self-satire which lightens the desperation, extreme desperation is shown in the film as the product of the over investment in the illusion of individual importance. I also think that the film strongly believes in its communication. shows some incredible imaginative intimacy with some apparently unlikeable charaters. Most importantly, the ending aches with hope as it renders a tenderness and compassion in the audience. This really is an incredible achievement against the almost overwhelming sense of the ridicoulous that has been building since the opening sequence.

Jane

I agree - but you miss two important things in saying it is unbearably depressing . It is about difficultly and it does ruthlessly attack some of the ways we force meaning into the chaotic material of life. There is , however, a heavy vien of self-satire which lightens the desperation, extreme desperation is shown in the film as the product of the over investment in the illusion of individual importance. I also think that the film strongly believes in its communication. shows some incredible imaginative intimacy with some apparently unlikeable charaters. Most importantly, the ending aches with hope as it renders a tenderness and compassion in the audience. This really is an incredible achievement against the almost overwhelming sense of the ridicoulous that has been building since the opening sequence.

Tim R

Wow, everyone here completely missed the point of this movie. You are all taking it far too literally. I just saw this movie on DVD last weekend and thought it was unbearably depressing, brutally sad and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The movie isn’t about a theater director named Caden. The movie is about the utter futility and pointlessness of the human condition. The huge replica he builds of New York city on his sound stage is a metaphor for the artifice that is all of our lives and the desperate way in which we try to fill them with meaningful content. The fact that he dies without finishing his masterpiece is the heartbreaking, soul crushing truth of all of our existences. We will finish nothing and in the end some self-constructed version of our self whispers in our ear, telling us what to, how to react and eventually when to die. Brilliant movie.

Tim R

Wow, everyone here completely missed the point of this movie. You are all taking it far too literally. I just saw this movie on DVD last weekend and thought it was unbearably depressing, brutally sad and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The movie isn’t about a theater director named Caden. The movie is about the utter futility and pointlessness of the human condition. The huge replica he builds of New York city on his sound stage is a metaphor for the artifice that is all of our lives and the desperate way in which we try to fill them with meaningful content. The fact that he dies without finishing his masterpiece is the heartbreaking, soul crushing truth of all of our existences. We will finish nothing and in the end some self-constructed version of our self whispers in our ear, telling us what to, how to react and eventually when to die. Brilliant movie.

Dan Roberts

This film works for me and doesn’t slip into being pretentious because of it’s throwaway filming style – everything is underplayed. A huge amount of detail is present but nothing is rammed down our throats, and so it never tilts over into hyperbole. Several contributors here seem upset because the film has lofty ambitions or they feel Mr Kaufman is attempting to present himself as being clever. What would you have him do? Dumb it down? Artificially place some restraint on his invention? I identified, in my own small way, with Caden Cotard. The self-centred need to fulfil one’s true potential at the expense of all else – Caden comes to realise that he has his priorities wrong much too late. It actually resonated with the chunk of the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ used in the BBC’s recent ‘Occupation’, which goes: ‘Gilgamesh, what you seek you will never find. For when the Gods created Man they let death be his lot, eternal life they withheld. Let your every day be full of joy, love the child that holds your hand, let your wife delight in your embrace, for these alone are the concerns of humanity’.

Dan Roberts

This film works for me and doesn’t slip into being pretentious because of it’s throwaway filming style – everything is underplayed. A huge amount of detail is present but nothing is rammed down our throats, and so it never tilts over into hyperbole. Several contributors here seem upset because the film has lofty ambitions or they feel Mr Kaufman is attempting to present himself as being clever. What would you have him do? Dumb it down? Artificially place some restraint on his invention? I identified, in my own small way, with Caden Cotard. The self-centred need to fulfil one’s true potential at the expense of all else – Caden comes to realise that he has his priorities wrong much too late. It actually resonated with the chunk of the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ used in the BBC’s recent ‘Occupation’, which goes: ‘Gilgamesh, what you seek you will never find. For when the Gods created Man they let death be his lot, eternal life they withheld. Let your every day be full of joy, love the child that holds your hand, let your wife delight in your embrace, for these alone are the concerns of humanity’.

Milli Schmidt

Thank you Usman Khawaja for your below, excellent review of this film - not only was TO's five star assessment off, most importantly the review itself was utterly superficial and failed to mention the main themes and failures of the film. I normally agree with TO's assessments overall so am very curious who did this one. SYnecdoche is kinda interesting - very difficult/boring to watch but throws some ideas at you - but the ultimate failure to provide ironic relief AND judgement of the 'inexorant male' character and his selfishness, anger and destructions of himself and others sticks out as its greatest failure. Caden is an a**hole and I pity anyone who is unlucky enough to have to deal with anyone like this in their lives (for people like him do exist!).

Asish

Dull, pretentious and utterly miserable. I couldnt wait for it to end and almost walked out, the only thing that stopped me was the faint hope that it might somehow suddenly take a turn for the better (but it never did). I thought it was a self-indugent piece of cinema and I am annoyed at having wasted 2 hours and 10bucks on it.

nina

the most sad, beautiful and profound film ever - difficult does not mean pretentious!!

nina

the most sad, beautiful and profound film ever - difficult does not mean pretentious!!

Bara Evans

Dire. Not as bad as the previous Time Out five starrer in that I didn't actually walk out this time. But, guys, just becuase a film uses a big word in the title and is dull, dull, dull it doesn't mean it has artistic merit. And why aren't no stars counted in the punters' assessment. A few films slip through because we only put a comment.

Jane

Despite its refusal to provide any comfort or give any answers, Kaufman's swan-song to the difficulty of life, creativity and love has its own kind of fully formed weightiness and completion. It might feel flippant and cynical at moments, but this heavily satrical and wry piece has some serous bite. Ripping the skin of intellectuality, irony and artistic vocation, it exposes the sentimentality and homliness underneath the most complex and lofty ideas about being alive. Kaufman's sense of the ridiculous pervades both verbally and visually, tinting the whole experience with a rare kind good humor, achieved against pressure of occasionally rather uncomfortable awarenesses.

Jane

Despite its refusal to provide any comfort or give any answers, Kaufman's swan-song to the difficulty of life, creativity and love has its own kind of fully formed weightiness and completion. It might feel flippant and cynical at moments, but this heavily satrical and wry piece has some serous bite. Ripping the skin of intellectuality, irony and artistic vocation, it exposes the sentimentality and homliness underneath the most complex and lofty ideas about being alive. Kaufman's sense of the ridiculous pervades both verbally and visually, tinting the whole experience with a rare kind good humor, achieved against pressure of occasionally rather uncomfortable awarenesses.

Senora Tufinia

i think it is pretty misleading, that timeout doesnt count the zero stars into the user rating. if you read the user's reviews here, most of them dislike the film, and dont give any stars. still, the average is 4 stars, which is not at all reflecting the opinion of the users. Here, timeout gave 5 stars (why???) and the users gave, on average around 1,5stars. Timeout ppl should do something about this. thanks

usman khawaja

CARL JUNG MEETS salvador dali in a disaster- synecdoche is a greek term referring to a parameter so charlie kaufman borrows the rather intellectual sounding word as a title of his wildly delusional and manic depiction of an indulgent playwright who typically presents the ego -inflated pseudo intellectuals of manhattan ,played by mr .hoffman as a dying duck . the movie is a depiction of an extended mid life crisis of an inexorable male ,which here envelops the whole existence of caden corbut , the sexually promiscuous hystericaL PATHETIC and rather self absorbed miscreant who virtually exhibits every symptom of being bipolar manic depressive though he is disguised here as a pitiful and even sadder counterpart of a contemporary artist who spends more time in quest of art and ends up creating virtually nothing . the lame script is the premise of a writer in search of a perfect play that he contrives out of his own egoistical existence and his envy of an erstwhile spouse who understandly elopes to berlin from new york with his first daughter olive . this is a man in crisis who is obsessed with baron Munchausen syndrome from periodontitis to pseudo epilepsy but these give way to a self proclaimed genius who then becomes a bitter spoof of the Jungian psychology as to realising self and ego in the same instance by discovering your subconscious and the reality of existence . in this instance that means promiscuity and isolation granted by anonymity as he receives a grant of billions of dollars so he can create the ultimate art house play in a huge contraption created inside ART DECO warehouses in new york . the absurdist plot convolutes as karl jung meets salvador dali and psychology gets surreal in the midst of a vast void where one can see nothing but lofty ambition and desperate execution combined with creative bankruptcy . the billions wasted are not as sad as the talented cast that is wasted here on a flight of surreal fantasy which is borrowed ,uninspired and misdirected and plainly pretentious as well as painfully monotonous to watch . the idea of a play within a movie as borrowed from FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN is combined with kaufman's own BEING JOHN MALKOVICH to create a hugely dissatisfying and exasperating experience which has nothing new to offer except a novel narrative which juxtaposes various time capsules and time warps to create a rather sinister milieu but the fact it reeks of hilariously psychotic and plainly silly characters and imposes itself as a self proclaimed intellectual burden on it's viewers is unforgivable . watch it you must to see how misguided can cinema get in it's grand allusions to self glory and egoistical worship of individuality . the female form here is just ridiculously presented as an inferior race which is there to sexually and psychotically pleasure and alternatively torture the male psyche of CADEN CORBUT . as for the rest just imagine the name caden corbut played with an obsessive compulsive phillip hoffman seymour and you can guess the rest . – usman khawaja , havering,london,england

J Fitzmaurice

Bad Teeth. Bad skin. Hair Loss. Kaufman might say he doesn't go by dream dictionary interpretations of the sub-concious. A shame he didn't look in one because he would have seen that most of the ailments he heaps on his lead are the cliches of those who are worrying about getting old and moving on. A turgid, mid-life crisis with much less wit and invention than it thinks it has. Perhaps another director could have got the script to sparkle but as it stands this is a bloated mess.

Georgia

The Woody Allen comparisons are spot on. That two people should be so lucky as to build their careers on clever navel-gazing is not so surprising given how inventive their minds and how quick witted they are. What I’ve never got over with Allen is that we should suspend disbelief enough to buy into one plot after another where a hapless, unattractive, self-obsessed depressive gets one beautiful girl after another and now Charlie Kaufman is on the same story arc. This wouldn’t be so ludicrous if both of them weren’t supposedly being real and squaring up to the big number: death. I thought this was very funny, laughed out loud more than I am used to, but was also deeply fatigued by the self-absorbed, self-importance of a ‘genius’ at work, however much that was meant to be a send up of himself, it is also what it was all about. Irony as a defence only goes so far. Emperor’s new clothes? I totally agree.

Rimo

It was the most painful 2 hours of my life!!! I was actually in pain. Wasted time and money. Utter rubbish. Don't believe pseudointelectuals trying to explain it. Too late for me but save yourselves.

Margaret

I went to this film with no idea what it was about. I waas fascinated and intrigued and wanted to know what it was as I was lost some of the time, puzzled and wondering whether I had failed to follow events properly or whether it really is actually difficult to follow. So I came to Google and was pleasedto find reviews which have confirmed that it is rather puzzling. I have found out that the direcdtor made 'Sunshine of the spotless mind ' which I shall look out for. I am very p[leased to have my interest in film stimulated . This is a plus.

Margaret

I went to this film with no idea what it was about. I waas fascinated and intrigued and wanted to know what it was as I was lost some of the time, puzzled and wondering whether I had failed to follow events properly or whether it really is actually difficult to follow. So I came to Google and was pleasedto find reviews which have confirmed that it is rather puzzling. I have found out that the direcdtor made 'Sunshine of the spotless mind ' which I shall look out for. I am very p[leased to have my interest in film stimulated . This is a plus.

drawler

4 out of 6 but think of it as 6 out of 10. if you thought eternal sunshine was a bit overlong then you will be stupefied as to why this is as long as it is. a good film and some moments of comedy genius but ultimately it sets its ideas out early and although it builds on them they get no real development. another director may have given it the necessary trim but as it is it fails to fully satisfy.

Matthew McKinnon

Oh, I don't know... I thought Eternal Sunshine was pretty good. So did the rest of the world, if I remember right. I bought this on BluRay from the US afew months ago, despairing of it ever getting a release here. It's excellent, but it does flag towards the end [though I think it will feel less so with a second viewing. I hope Kaufman directs many more films if they're as good as this one. What an amazing cast, as well. If Julianne Moore were in there somewhere it'd be a full house.

Steve Millar

Well if one of the above posters top ten fave films is Eternal Sunshine then we can safely take her opinion as utterly meaningless.

Steve Millar

Well if one of the above posters top ten fave films is Eternal Sunshine then we can safely take her opinion as utterly meaningless.