Kaufman's Most Ambitious Film10/10
I got to see a screening of this in Boston, and let me admit to the fact that I consider this film a masterpiece. It is a rare entry into the market: an ambitious film, a gamble that, sadly, makes me question how much success it could garner in the mainstream box-office.
Charlie Kaufman, however, is not a screenwriter/director who inherently aims his sights on the box-office or the mainstream (anybody who questions this has to question Being John Malkovich). Instead, his greatest strength is a boundless creativity and insight into the qualities of humanity, and Synecdoche, New York is no exception. Rather, it is the apex of Kaufman at his most insightful, his most ambitious, and (as his directorial debut) his most hauntingly beautiful.
The plot itself is a contradiction of simplicity and complexity: to say that it is about Philip Seymour Hoffman trying to put on a larger than life play is an accurate statement, yet it completely fails to capture what Synecdoche, New York tries to convey. It is not a conventional film, but instead it is ambitious: a mixture of conventional narrative and surrealist cinema, one where the beauty of the film does not solely lie upon the plot, but the way every minute quality of the film ties together to form the tapestry.
The actors all do their parts brilliantly. I am hard-pressed to find any performance that was weak or, for that matter, standard of the Hollywood formula. Hoffman is brilliant in a role that utilizes his physical and acting gifts, and he takes the character through the spectrum of its possibilities. All the other actors also performed brilliantly, although what struck me as wonderful about the acting choices are that the majority of the actors present are not "glamorized" for the screen. Rather, the blemishes, the age, and the imperfections that make them ordinary are ever present in the film, making Synecdoche, New York seem beautiful in a strange, "dirty" way. Much like a city, its majesty lies not in grungy street corners or clogged rain gutters, but in the whole image that is comprised of such small, necessary imperfections.
And that, ultimately, is why Synecdoche, New York is such an ambitious, beautiful film. It is not a perfectly crafted standard screenplay, nor a perfectly executed piece of cinema. At least, Kaufman's work is not perfect under the current criteria of modern cinema. Synecdoche, New York is a gamble; a mixture of images and music and dialogue and acting that follows Kaufman's heart and his meditations on several ideas: namely, those on life and death and the connections all around us. It is dark yet funny, evocative and haunting. It is perfect in being a work of art that tempts us to find explanation, yet ultimately needs none compared to the feelings they evoke in us.
Viewers who are looking to see the difference between "art" and "entertainment" need only see Synecdoche.