One of the rare pleasures I had as a video store clerk was being able to enjoy how customers responded to Charlie Kaufman’s work. One such customer was even eager to check out Donald’s stuff after watching Adaptation! For me, Kaufman’s scripts were love letters to outsiders of all shapes and sizes, for whom the pursuit of a “normal” life presents a tremendous challenge. Yet even when some degree of normality is obtained or acceptance achieved, his protagonists remain just out of step with their peers.
Caden Cotard, the man at the center of Synecdoche, New York, is no exception. I spent some time reading Filmbrain’s excellent two-part review (part 1, part 2), but felt that Charlie Kaufman’s motifs remain the same. In Synecdoche, he continues to play with time and space, leaving it up to Cotard to reconcile his place within them, while struggling with infirmity and insecurity. Synecdoche, New York finds Kaufman addressing the creative process in a way he hasn’t since Charlie drove himself to distraction in Adaptation.
It’s hard to say very much about Synecdoche, New York. I was completely mesmerized by the story and the performances, without much more than a passing thought for where the plot might lead. I found it spellbinding. I was completely engrossed in the characters and what they might do next. Does that make me one of Armond White’s “fashion sheep?” Maybe. Do I care? No.
Why? Because part of the joy in seeing movies made by writers and directors like Kaufman, Gondry, Anderson, Reichardt, and others is that they feel like our movies. Their actors feel like our actors.To me, this cinema is Generation X coming to grips with a world it hasn’t shaped in any meaningful way, reflected in Cotard walling himself off from the war-torn reality that exists outside his “theater of the real.” There’s an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and impotence that permeates the movie, and those are two sentiments that could be applied to Generation X if you ask me.
This is the sort of movie I’ll come back to again and again. It’s the sort of movie I’d love to see released in a special edition three-disc set, complete with notes and interviews and documentary footage. There’s no chance that it’ll receive such lavish attention when it comes out on DVD, but one can dream.