Friday, 23 May 2008

Cannes 2008: Synecdoche

So Screen likes it: "Charlie Kaufman is a past master of ingenious conceits and wild flights of fantasy as witnessed particularly in Being John Malkovich and Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His talent has always been filtered through the vision of a sympathetic director but with Synecdoche, New York he assumes the director's role for the first time. The result is a film of staggering imagination, more daring in content than form as it explores the unbearable fragility of human existence and the sad inevitability of death. Flashes of comic genius and melancholy insight into the human condition are woven into an increasingly elaborate canvas in which the boundaries between artifice and reality are slowly erased. Mainstream audiences are likely to find it simply too weird and unfathomable for their viewing pleasure but surely nobody expected Kaufman to make What Happens In Vegas? Fans of his previous work, admirers of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and open-minded curiosity seekers should be enough to give the film a fighting chance of box- office returns on a level with previous Kaufman screenplays."

Variety's not so keen: "Like an anxious artist afraid he may not get another chance, Charlie Kaufman tries to Say It All in his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York. A wildly ambitious and gravely serious contemplation of life, love, art, human decay and death, the film bears Kaufman's scripting fingerprints in its structural trickery and multi-plane storytelling. At its core a study of a theater director whose life goes off the rails into uncharted artistic territory, it's the sort of work that on its face appears overreaching and isn't entirely digestible on one viewing. As such, it will intrigue Kaufman's most loyal fans but put off fair-weather friends on the art house circuit, where a venturesome distrib will have its work cut out for it to move the film commercially beyond cult status. Unusually for a first film, the strangely titled opus feels more like a summation work, such as 8 ½ or especially All That Jazz, as it centers on an artist who battles creeping infirmity and deathly portents by plunging into a grandiose project. On the most superficial level, many viewers will be nauseated by the many explicit manifestations of physical malfunction, bodily fluids, bleeding and deterioration. A larger issue will be the film's developing spin into realms that can most charitably be described as ambiguous and more derisively will be regarded as obscuritanist and incomprehensible."

1 comment:

Matt J said...

I love the films made from kaufman's scripts thus far but didn't warm to 'Synecdoche'. Kaufman makes an auspicious debut as a director-it's visually inventive & he seems able to draw strong performances from his cast. However the characters aren't very sympathetic especially Seymour Hoffmann's naval gazing playwrite. The aging & 'multiple actor characters' soon becomes tiresome. The neurotic introspection is lightened on several occasions-notably Hoffman 'salivating' before chewing his food!