I saw Synecdoche, New York on Friday afternoon and I’ve spent this weekend trying to parse what I saw, heard and felt. I’ve even been struggling with the metaphor of how it’s affected me; I don’t want to ape the ongoingly-dying lead character by saying it’s infected me like a virus. I think it’s more like ink in water, gently dispersing, ever obscuring.
I don’t feel bad that I can’t come up with the right words. Roger Ebert and Manohla Dargis both loved the movie, but neither of them seem to have the vocabulary to approach it. Ebert comes closer in this blog-post about it, but he’s still barking at cats. Robert Wilonsky named it his favorite movie of 2008, but didn’t review it for his paper. He did get in a good interview with writer/director Charlie Kaufman. (Rex Reed’s negative review is pretty funny, in its way.)
I watched Adaptation on Saturday night, in hopes that it would provide some clues into Synecdoche, since it seemed to be the most thematically similar of Mr. Kaufman’s previous screenplays. I was completely wrong, of course. Adaptation is about a man who can’t start, and Synecdoche is about a man who can’t stop. Also, Synecdoche isn’t about writing, but dying. It’s also a million times funnier than Adaptation, and the women are amazing. (Like Ebert, I won’t write about the actors or their performances.) Unfortunately, I caught a 1 p.m. screening, so the other dozen audience members were generally elderly people. They didn’t find it as humorous as I did.
For all the difficulties in the movie, I never felt like I was being sneered at by Mr. Kaufman. It felt more like he was struggling to convey the ineffable, knowing it’s ineffable. I still don’t get why Samantha Morton’s house was on fire, but this isn’t the sort of movie where misreading a symbol will derail your entire experience with it. At least, it wasn’t for me.
I almost drove back into NYC on Saturday to watch it again, but the DVD is coming out on March 10, so I preordered it. I have a feeling that I’ll ramble more about this movie in the next few months.