Monday, August 30, 2010

New York State of Troubled Mind

Tonight I watched Synecdoche, New York, one of many fine films available through our local library. Through much of it I wondered whether it was a depressing movie that lucked intoa few funny moments or a parody of depressing movies.

Probably an unfair question. It's actually a serious attempt to put the methods of magic realism onscreen. This is not something that American movies are generally known for, and it's a surprise to see Charlie Kaufman succeed as much as he does. For example, the disorientation of hero Caden Cotard watching years pass by him as he thinks they're days and we see only minutes.

What makes it hard to get into is that Cotard can be--is--a rather offputting character. He's a self-absorbed depressive lump, and the question isn't why his wife ran out on him. Nay, the question is how she stayed with him long enough to birth a daughter and watch her turn four. Given that the character, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is named after the Cotard delusion (being convinced that you're dead) means his unattractive qualities are almost certainly intentional. But it is something you have to get past, and it may take me more than one viewing.

In short, I think that while it may take some reaching, this is a wothwhile and accomplished film. And if I want to convince my friends to see it, my money quote will be "Emily Watson takes her bra off."

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