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Three awesome things - Portrait of a Young Man as The Artist — LiveJournal
abmann
abmann
Three awesome things

Cranes in Fog
Originally uploaded by ABMann
ABMann.net
    A few awesome things:
  1. I'm down three pounds in a week and a half (currently weighing 188). This includes Thanksgiving where I actually ate like a reasonable human, rather than a starved grizzly.
  2. Synecdoche, New York may be one of the best movies I have ever seen. Were I to summarize in a word, and I was considering what word for a while, I believe "preposterous" is pretty good - in the "outrageous" and "silly" meanings of the word. I'm not saying it is absurd, though it is, but not in a laughable way, though I did laugh frequently; it is an audacious cerebral orgasm and I absolutely need to see it again soon so I can understand it better.
  3. Photo:
    Fog + Cross processing = awesome.
"Synecdoche" is a literary term for using an aspect of the whole to represent it - "suits" to mean lawyers or "wheels" to mean a car. Rather than ramble on and potentially spoil the movie for anyone, I want to point out that the opposite is also true in the definition, a synecdoche can also use a whole to represent a part - "court" to refer to a judge. I think this less oft used inversion is just as important in the movie's momentum, especially the denouement and conclusion

Lastly, my LJ client's dictionary doesn't know how to spell "synecdoche." No, I don't mean Schenectady, New York... not that you know how to spell that either.



I think the inverted definition of synecdoche is as important as the standard definition. The movie rotates through the definitions. At first, Hoffman's life is representative of the whole of life: mundane, prosaic. One could argue that he is a whole representing the part, us in this case as humans and families.

As the movie progresses he becomes splintered into his own play and this becomes a part representing the whole of his play which is, in itself, a part representing the whole of New York. The more and more abstract it becomes, as the lines blur between the play and reality, Hoffman's character becomes whole as he incorporates more of the story into his life and vice-versa.

By the end he has absorbed the world, both his and the real one because the lines between the two no longer exist. He dies as the world ceases to be.

And stuff. gosh, there's just so much more in there.

The movie feels like the logical conclusion to many of Charlie Kaufman's works - Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you marry the major themes from all these movies, you create Synecdoche, New York.

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Comments
zesty_pinto From: zesty_pinto Date: December 2nd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Synecdoche was actually good? Can you describe to me just what it actually was about?
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

On the surface, the movie is about a play writer and director trying to create a perfect representation of life and death in a theater while battling neurological degeneration.

I think the movie is more deeply a micro macrocosm for life as represented through the main character.
antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
And also about living an authentic life in the face of fears about death...about the anxieties that paralyze us from making choices... the realization, ultimately, that we aren't alone, and that every person has a life that we would understand and relate to if we knew them as intimately as we know our own neurotic, grasping selves.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I identified in an uncomfortable way with Hoffman's character. I understand his fears more than I care to admit. :/

Did you think the movie was ultimately hopeful? I'm not sure considering the semi-autocratic nature of The Voice he attained, though it was ultimately comforting to him. We are only ever comfortable and happy if we give up ourselves entirely. Hmm...
antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hoffman's character went through his entire life just wanting to be told what to do - he was afraid of making choices, and his fears, taken to their logical conclusions, resulted in these larger-than-life, extreme scenarios (I don't necessarily think they were real, per se). He also had some intense anxieties about his gender identity throughout the film. I found it really telling that The Voice led him through an experience of being someone else-- someone who felt like himself, but wasn't quite (the pain of being daughterless, the cleaning, the reconciliation with the mother figure, etc.). He kept saying, "I know how to do the play, now," and of course it changed throughout his life as he learned new things about himself and the people around him. I think what I'm trying to say is that the aspect I found hopeful was the release from that anxiety - the idea that taking our fears and immobility to a logical extreme, ad absurdum, gets you nowhere. You don't end up any more authentic for your efforts, and you can't prevent loss, or pain. So just...be.
jackshoegazer From: jackshoegazer Date: December 2nd, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Voice, or His Life As Ellen, was more himself than the life he actually led. Remember, early in the film, when he got stressed out, he cleaned.
antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
And people kept telling him he was like a woman, or smelled like a woman, etc. I don't think the film was about him finding himself as transgendered, but rather about him feeling comfortable and exploring the space of his anxieties.
jackshoegazer From: jackshoegazer Date: December 2nd, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly. It did seem to have an under-theme about repressing the more feminine aspects of his personality, and then there was that whole bit about his possible homosexuality. God, there was just so much in that film. An entire class could be constructed around interpreting that film.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I especially liked the connection of Ellen's husband Eric, Eric being the supposed gay lover for whom Caden abandoned his daughter. Taken directly, Caden being Ellen towards the end, the Olive's grandiose accusations were entirely corect that Caden abandoned them for the play. A delicious and appropriate a posteriori resolution. :D

Also, Seeing Calamity Jane as Older Olive was awesome.
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antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Grasper!
(Deleted comment)
antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
And you seem to have an affinity for excessive punctuation!

As for me: No, not really. It wasn't a value judgment - I was talking about people for whom the anxieties of the film resonate.
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antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
My snark is generally good-natures unless accompanied by an icon to indicate otherwise. :D

My response about Buddhism is more of a suggestion that I haven't formally studied it, so I don't feel qualified to really speak about it in particular. I just resonate with feelings of anxiety and immobility when it comes to thinking about choices and the future - at least, I did for a long time.

The movie uses the character's hypochondria as a pretty strong manifestation of his fears - it's so palpable in the film.
nathan_lounge From: nathan_lounge Date: December 2nd, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
You talk real purty.
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: December 2nd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
yeh. What he said.
antarcticlust From: antarcticlust Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely loved Synecdoche, New York. I would say possible 50-75% of the audience (at Sundance) didn't get it, which you could tell because they left right away. The rest of us just sat and stared until the credits were over, and even then we were slow to move. It was brilliant, painful, visceral, beautiful, honest, and oddly hopeful. Jeremy and I haven't talked about a film like that in...well, I don't remember how long.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did the same thing! I was also expecting a second set of credits. :)

suibhne_geilt From: suibhne_geilt Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's Schenectady, not Skenectady.

I stayed with friends in the next town over this past summer.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Woops.
narcissuskisses From: narcissuskisses Date: December 2nd, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
The movie was superb--the best I've seen in 2008, certainly. I had a tough time understanding the ending, but I think a re-watching (or two) would help with that. I'm glad you were willing to sit silently through the credits. I like to do that at most movies (at least the ones that move me), and when my companion wants to get up right away or start talking to me right away it just harshes my mellow, man. :)
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I caught that you wanted to stay. :) I normally leave during the credits but wanted to see if something happened at the end of them. Surely the movie had to continue!
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slavetopurple From: slavetopurple Date: December 2nd, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wait you gave Sundance money? Why do you hate gay people?

I want to see this movie like whoa but refuse to support Sundance after the top couple company executives gave money to the proposition 8 debacle. Here is hoping it comes out at a slightly less evil theater soon.
abmann From: abmann Date: December 2nd, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Obviously I hate gay people.
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