Los Angeles Times - 10/24/2008
"SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is beautiful....It makes an irrefutable case for the universality of the individual human experience."
New York Times - 10/24/2008
"SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is as much a cry from the heart as it is an assertion of creative consciousness. It's extravagantly conceptual but also tethered to the here and now..."
Premiere - 10/24/2008
"[F]or viewers up for the challenge, it may be the film most likely to stick with you."
Chicago Sun-Times - 11/05/2008
"This is a film with the richness of great fiction....The subject of SYNECDOCHE is nothing less than human life and how it works."
Rolling Stone - 11/13/2008
"Kaufman provides juicy roles for his actors, including Michelle Williams, Dianne Wiest and Tom Noonan, who get caught in the time war as art imitates something resembling existence."
Film Comment - 11/01/2008
"[W]hile deadly serious in theme, the film is frantically playful in its construction, introducing a new surrealist gimmick in nearly every other scene..."
Uncut - 05/11/2009 4 stars out of 5 -- "Kaufman's meta-cinema must be applauded....He's presented here something intricate enough to put furrows in the brows of Borges or Baudrillard."
Obsession and identity are recurring themes in screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work, and he draws on them again in his directorial debut, SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK. Kaufman's film focuses on the wiles of Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a regional theater director who has won a MacArthur grant to help produce his next project. Cotard's artist wife, Adele Lack (Catherine Keener), subsequently departs with their daughter to Berlin, and he begins a flirtation with box office clerk Hazel (Samantha Morton). Much of the movie revolves around Cotard's ambitious next project, based around his life, which is being constructed in an enormous industrial space in New York City. As the years pass and the project is mired in endless rehearsals that replicate Cotard's existence, the tortured director obsesses over Adele, Hazel, his daughter, his health, and myriad other topics.
The complex and often highly inventive narrative of SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is typical of Kaufman's screenplays for features such as BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION. The film draws heavily on the kind of visual trickery that director Spike Jonze has often used in his adaptations of Kaufman's works, and features a strong performance from Hoffman as Cotard. Occasionally the film is abstract and surreal: Hazel lives in a house that is permanently on fire, while the actors Cotard casts in his play often blur the lines between fantasy and reality. Moviegoers will theorize about the true meaning behind Kaufman's feature: it offers no easy answers. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is a film that requires as much work from its viewers as it does from the resolutely excellent cast that brought it to life, and as the film careers from hilarity to sadness in the blink of an eye, there's little doubt that this is another superlative entry in Kaufman's canon.
From Charlie Kaufman, comes a visual and philosophic adventure, "SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK". As he did with his groundbreaking scripts for "Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation", and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", Kaufman twists and subverts form and language as he delves into the mind of a man who, obsessed with his own mortality, sets out to construct a massive artistic enterprise that could give some meaning to his life. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one. Worried about the transience of his life, he leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in New York City, hoping to create a work of brutal honesty. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside. The years rapidly fold into each other, and Caden buries himself deeper into his masterpiece, but the textured tangle of real and theatrical relationships blurs the line between the world of the play and that of Caden's own deteriorating reality.
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