ANDYVISION - watch me try to be creative. live.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Synecdoche, Colorado

Leaving the office on Friday evening it didn't seem as though I'd need to come in this weekend. We had busted all week--on only four to five hours of sleep a night and one big all-nighter--to get ready for four different client presentations. But we got through it, got it all done, and it was looking like I wouldn't see the interior of 6450 Gunpark Drive for at least another collective period of hours.

But I've also learned recently to be less presumptuous than that. I was just waiting for a nine o'clock DING on my Blackberry with an email from one of the CDs saying that we need to come in to crank out another set of idea. And sure enough at 8:52 this morning my little device dinged. I got out of bed, fearing what awaited me on the screen was the announcement of the untimely passing of my weekend. Instead what I found was a message rather inspirational message to get out and see the world. So, I decided to take the advice.

Ah, to see a movie. Let's see. What's out there? No, no, no. Ooh, Synecdoche, New York. And a mantinee showing. Perfect.

So, off I head to the theater. Usually the idea of seeing a movie alone makes me feel sad, but today it was an excitement, an excursion, a diversion to be away from the rush and people and things and deadlines and just absorb a work.

I love Charlie Kaufman's work. I think he's an amazing creative, unparalleled in almost all respects. He is to word what Gondry is to image (albeit entirely more full of himself and a his own mortality than the French director). Adaption. is still my favorite screenplay. Absolutely brilliant.

As with most of his films, Synecdoche sludges through the jumbled slough of the protagonist's unconscious, bumping directionlessly like a bumper car on a carnival ride. The driver tries desparately in vain to control his life and steer it in a meaningful direction, only to find that there's no start of finish to the ride, no path to follow. Instead, he drive his car madly in one direction until he hits another's car and jolt their chosen trajectory into disarray. The pattern continues until the ride simply is called to a end by the man behind the controls.

That's how I characterize this and essentially all other Kaufman screenplays. Brilliant, near-autobiographical scripts that vividly capture the essences of loneliness, depression, helpless and (fleetingly) love. This latest attempt, takes this issues on in the most grand scale of any of his works to date. Before his stories were microcosms unto themselves, and in Synecdoche, that microcosm has literally been transplanted onto the entire world (or, in fact, the literary term synecdoche).

I won't go into more detail about the film because it's a jumbled, non-linear mess that could never be done justice except to actually see it. Yes, the movie is tedious at points, heart-crushingly sad, devilishly fun and perhaps drags on a bit too long. But then again, Kaufman's point is to show life how it truly is (or at least that's what the protagonist Caden Cotard claims). It's not a great movie, but it's amazing. These two things seem contradictory, but I promise that, with Kaufman at the wheel, contradiction is the whole point.

The thing that most shocked--and amused--me about watch the film was the actual watching of it. I seemed to be the only patron in the theater without a membership to AARP. Seriously. There were probably 35 people in the theater and 34 of them were over the age of 55. I can't imagine how horrific of an experience that movie must have been for them. The grand proportion of the film is spent worrying about various ailments and death. In fact, the film is almost entirely about human mortality.

There were two very old ladies sitting in front of me, talking back and forth throughout the movie, trying to decipher what was happening. (Not only is Kaufman unfriendly to the elderly audience in terms of subject matter, but his films are verbally, visually and chronologically untethered from reality. I have no idea why there were old people there, other than the fact it was a 1:40 showing. Perhaps it was an ill-advised nursing home field trip?) Anyway, these two yammering Ednas finally decided to get up about halfway through and walk out, unable to follow what was going on.

But the eldery weren't the only ones left unsatisfied. The only other person in the audience who was relatively young was a man of about 38 or so sitting in the bottom seats in the center by himself. As soon as the film was beginning to slowly fade into the end, he started to, very loudly, put on his jacket. It went over his head, up the air, with all sorts of clasps and ties clanging obnoxiously in the dead silence of the theater as the screen was gradually fading to a white glow. Before the credits even rolled he stood up and trounced out. He was obviously very pissed that he had pissed away $7.50 on this stupid waste of time. It was awesome to see.

Then, an older lady (I'd say 57 or so) seated next to me on my aisle began singing along with the song played over the credits. She sat there, by herself for what I'm guessing was the entire credits (I got up and left) singing to herself. It was surreal.

On the way home I passed people and places, all of them off on their own tangents in life. I got lost in a maze of parking decks. I saw a little girl on her with little training wheels with her family beside her. I saw someone on the side of the road taking a small harp out of its case to show a friend.

Kaufman's films have a way of affecting me. They make you hyper-sensitive of the world around you. Slowly, as you return to the "normalcy" of a hurried life full of deadlines and having to get things down for one reason or another, you'll become desensitized to your awareness. But even for a brief moment, they offer you the chance to see life through the eyes of someone who sees and hears nearly everything, who absorbs it all and can't tell you anything of what it means but can at least show you the beauty in it.

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