I love Synecdoche, New York. I love it with a strange abandon that is both painfully obvious and beautifully mysterious. I love its ballsy ambition and fearlessness -- a fearlessness that nearly teeters over the edge of its own message and reason, and yet remains entirely harmonized and rooted in real life. I've examined the movie numerous ways. It hits me personally. The movie crawls into my body, and pokes at places that are tender to the touch -- places I might choose to have left well enough alone. It makes me think of dreams, my own dreams, and theories of dreams, specifically Jungian (but I don't want to crawl into that particular portal at this moment). It reminds me of one of my literary heroes, Dostoyevsky and the concept of the doppelgänger (from Dostoevsky's brilliant The Double). It takes me to Fellini, Bunuel, Bergman. But it's all Charlie Kaufman.
I know a few people, many of them Kaufman admirers, who detest this picture. Upon first viewing, I witnessed strangers in the theater actively despise the movie, awakening from their annoyed torpor, shaking their heads to say "what a load of self indulgent crap." It was like emerging from a bizarre-o Woody Allen film only to walk into a real live Woody Allen movie, with Kaufman serving as Fellini. But I wasn't baffled by such responses, and I'm not going to challenge a viewer's contempt. I can't pull the "they just don't get it" routine. No, they just don't like it. And sometimes (sometimes) when a viewer hates a movie with that much Rex Reed foaming lather, they're actually getting more out of it than those who don't.
I don't feel it necessary to break down the plot. Selfishly, I'm returning back to myself, wondering why I like it so much. Why did the movie get to me, and beyond attempting to figure out its labyrinthian plot and outside-looking-in meta-movie-within-a play structure? Synecdoche deals with failure and death and creativity and disgusting rot and self absorption and is-that-all-there-is ponderances with such inspired aspiration and genuine soulfulness, I was left swooning with the idea that we are indeed, special and yet, not special at all. It's Benjamin Button's ugly brother showing his reality through his own kind of disorienting cinematic dreamscape. It frightens me. And yet, I love it.
So, now, I will discuss all of this (or none of it) tonight, on stage with Charlie Kaufman at Ebertfest (with Michael Barker and Nell Minow also on board). You can watch it streaming, live tonight here, some time after 10 PM Central Time. Good luck to all.
Update: Here's part of the discussion. Kaufman was brilliant and a charming fellow: