Imagine Synecdoche, New York is a massive Construction of Woody Allen, Franz Kafka, David Lynch, every doubt you’ve ever had, and everything you forgot from your Intro to Philosophy class. AKA a robot you’d definitely want to bring to a party. It’s important to mention I was really tempted to write this review in third person as a reviewer reviewing someone else writing a review...It got too complicated, so here goes:
Caden Cotard (played by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a struggling director living in a world that is seemingly against him. A failing marriage, unfulfilling job, and a series of are-they-real-or-aren’t-they illnesses leave him a neurotic mess of a man akin to a Woody Allen self-portrait on suicide watch. Suddenly, he is awarded a MacArthur grant and chooses to use the funding to pursue a theater project that will convey nothing but the brutal truth of life and death. Cotard (look up Cotard Syndrome if you’re feeling studious) does this by casting actors to play those around him and reinventing and replaying their lives in a never-ending 24/7 rehearsal, for which there is no audience beyond the actors themselves. In his pursuit of realism and brutal honesty, we are faced with a series of facades through which to understand and enjoy (maybe) the movie.
Salvador Dali said in his autobiography that the things we imagine to have happened are just as valid as the things that have happened, making them simultaneously true and untrue. And that’s what this movie brings to life. Everything we do, share, and recall in passing is nothing but a construction of true past, arguably making everything a lie...woah...anyway. In a series of screens, books, and secret messages Kaufman discreetly sends the audience, we get to experience Caden, the rest of the characters, and ultimately Kaufman in full. I’m impressed by this film, and eager to say it makes my top 5 of all time, because it IS such an honest portrayal of the human experience done through surrealism and absurdity. Scenes that we understand to last for hours last months, or years. Time moves irrationally, as though we were watching a dream. I think it does so well what so many films have failed to do: let us as an audience close the circuit of Kaufman’s story. We are reflected in him, relate to him, and are him, really.