Saturday, 23 May 2009

synecdoche, new york (w&d charlie kaufman)

Curzon Soho. Friday afternoon. London. The leaps between place and place seem so straightforward. No one bats an eyelash at the notion of being on one side of the world one week and another the next. Technology, it is revealed, has shrunk the globe, as though borders and oceans are on the point of extinction.

OK, so that's all a bit rhetorical and actually its not as though I can pop across to where I've been for a quick chivito and Patricia any time soon, nor as though I could have leapfrogged back to a London cinema to catch any of the films I might have missed these past three Montevidean months. However, all the same, one hopes the reader will indulge the conceit. Which sets the writer up for a point of encounter with this most peculiar of films, out on a spatial limb all of its own, a limb which appears at first to be the twin towns of the title, but reveals itself to be in fact a locus in the author's brain, a place so far removed from the everyday that only Kaufman can hope to know it, him and perhaps Malkovich.

However, I still haven't reached my point, as I battle against time and its literary economies, which is that no matter how comfortable a modern audience might be with the notion of geographical fluidity, we haven't really begun to get to grips with temporal fluidity. Which is what Kaufman uses to really mess with his public's heads. Something he tricked around with in Eternal Sunshine... but which he goes to town with in Synechdoche. If you can't get lost in space anymore, you can get still get lost in time. So as PS Hoffman succeeds in ageing ten years in five minutes, and then another how many more in how many more minutes, as his daughter goes from beguiling child to a tattooed German pole dancer in less than half an hour, Kaufman succeeds in doing our heads in in a way that Dali or Lynch would be proud of.

As for the rest of it... Watching this of a Friday afternoon it really felt as though perhaps cinema (and consciousness) had moved on in the months of my Latin American exile, and now films are made differently and people think differently and we've entered some kind of post post modern age of enlightened complexity which won't reach Uruguay for another six months or so (they're generally a bit behind) and I'll be forever lost in the limbo. Admittedly its all been done by Pirandello, or Ionescu, or some other old-school modern maverick, but no-one ever gave them millions of dollars and a host of stars to play with, and a budget sufficient to make the worlds in their heads spring to realisable life. So, I thought, Synechdoche is the arrival of the future, the collapse of the fifth dimension, the breakthrough that will take us beyond death.

Then I walked out into the world with Mr Kemp and we were herded into playpens outside pubs and loud people in suits made jokes that weren't funny and I learnt that the film had been a commercial disaster and I realised I was wrong, that nothing had actually changed all that much, I hadn't died and gone to Synedoche heaven, all is as it was... This is merely another taster, of how we will think when we learn to stammer better, burn houses more theatrically, take more pride in our depression and generally revel more in messing with brains, both our own, our public's and in particular, Mr Kaufman's. To return the favour. As would only be polite.

Now then. Where's the beef? (Asado, churrasco, milanesa, chivito, molleca, chorizo, morcilla, rinones, or whatever else that's good on the menu) Como? No estoy en Kansas mas? Bueno, in that case I'll just have a full english. Good to be back.

1 comment: said...

or even when we learn to
look at green poo better...