tcc: synecdoche new york

November 28, 2008

“there are millions of people in the world. and none of those people are an extra, they’re all leads in their own stories.”

there’s a moment in the film when the actor playing caden in the play within the film describes what the play within the film is about by saying “it’s about death”.  the real caden then turns to his assistant and says something to the extent of “it’s not just about death.  it’s about life, love, relationships, pain, suffering” and so on.  and that’s not just limited to the play within the film, but the film itself as well.

kaufman makes that is absolutely impossible to encapsulate.  it’s a film that has to be seen, and absorbed, and felt.  it’s amazing how a film that is structurally and narratively all over the place can be so fluid.  it’s amazing how characters come in and out of the film like little vignettes.

one thing i really loved about this film is how the actor that caden hires to play himself in the play, the man who has followed him around for 20 years, isn’t really the best man for the role.  he is actually doesn’t know anything about caden as a person at all.  caden has to constantly correct his direction in the play within the play and everyone that talks about him say that he’s very different from caden.  then dianne wiest’s character comes in and plays caden not as he is now, but how she sees him moving forward.  i think that says something very revealing about all of us.  how we see others, how we internalize actions and motives, and how connected we really are with people who follow us around for 20 years.

it’s also really interesting to note how almost all of caden’s extended personal interactions are with women.  and he’s constantly being referred to as a woman.  his ex-wife saying he smells like he’s menstruating, when he tells emily watson’s character that he might have been better if he was a woman, and then when he takes over in real life the role of ellen his ex-wife’s housekeeper.  i have nothing insightful to say about why kaufman does this, but it’s something that i’ve pondered deeply since seeing the film.  and that’s what this film will do.  it will keep you thinking about it days after you have seen it.

a film this reminded me of a lot was mulholland dr.  in that in ever scene, in every word spoken, in every action, there was a meaning behind it.  kaufman doesn’t just do things to do them, but really puts a deeper meaning behind everything.  and the beauty of that in this film (and mulholland dr.) is that he never explains himself, or even asks the viewer to figure it out.  he just paints the picture and hands it to you.

edited to add paragraph

i forgot i wanted to talk about the quote at the top of the page a little in the post.

i wrote an essay in high school about my own personal experience, trying to find meaning, fitting it in high school, and all that good stuff.  in part of it i wrote about trying to impress the audience that watches my every move.  my teacher was quite impressed with that part of the essay apparently (i’m really only writing this to tell you that i wrote a paper in high school and got an a).  but this quote was something that really resonated with me, and is clearly something i’ve thought of/struggled with before.  how often i catch myself trying to perform for people.  that people actually care what i do, what i say, and how i act.  that i actually have to do something for them in order to be happy.  where in reality what i have to do is for myself not somebody i don’t know.  i really loved how kaufman included this idea into the film.

it’s a bleak film, but i think in that quote there’s some hope.  i think kaufman’s saying that our lives our important, to us.  that even though there’s billions of people on the earth, things that happen to you are important.  emotions you feel do mean something because they’re happening to you.  and a film that can get me thinking that much about all of this is clearly doing something right.

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3 Responses to “tcc: synecdoche new york”

  1. morgan. Says:

    the line you mentioned at the top was the best in the film. and it came at the very end, after you’re trying to cope with everything else happening – kaufman hits you with that one.

    brilliant to mention all the female stuff with caden. didn’t cross my mind until you mentioned it here.

    i feel like everything in the film was so beyond me. morton’s house on fire? huge metaphors flew straight over my head. i need to see it again.

  2. johnheberle Says:

    and not just on fire, but on fire people know it’s on fire and still they sit in there.

    “they’re all leads in their own story”

    i wanted to write more on that but forgot too. i’ll have to fix that.

  3. morgan. Says:

    do write more!


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