Life Double Feature

Here are two films that explain these ideas much better than I can. Previews inside.


This is a constantly expanding lovely mess of a film that is savagely postmodern. Kaufman brilliantly captures wonder. It’s like neurotic Dali. Another filmmaker who explores neuroses is Woody Allen. Allen and Kaufman’s work could definitely spend time together at a cocktail party huddled in a corner pondering the reason why they were there in the first place. Their films share a similar impetus, but are incredibly different in how they communicate the masturbatory quality of obsessively pondering one’s own existence. Allen’s films are on the frontlines of the battle that exists in the mind whereas Kaufman’s films seem barley there, almost dream-like, more akin to the eerie peace one gets when they have accepted the release of death. No more fighting, no more thinking, just eternal being. When you watch Kaufman’s films you must eschew the influence of the aggressively modern films you have seen prior. His films communicate directly to your quiet subconscious, you cannot let your ego get in the way or you will ruin the experience. Oh, and although the movie takes place in Schenectady, New York, the film’s title is Synecdoche, New York. Synecdoche is a figure of speech where a term denoting a part of something is used to refer to the whole thing. Pretty damn clever Mr. Kaufman. More info here. Oh, and when you dwell on that as you watch this flick it will start to make staggering sense. Here’s my take (SPOILER ALERT)…

I think Caden is an incredibly fearful person and what plays out in the film is his worst fears realized via his subconscious. He contracts ailment after ailment. All of the people in his life who are “supposed” to be loved ones betray him. His consistent countering force is a woman who is almost like his mother. She provides a subtle reverent guidance that Caden finds comforting although he doesn’t actually express it outright. Once we reach the end, after living this cynical life of fear, all there is left to is die. Had he known that initially perhaps he would have taken a different tact. Cool thing is, this just a movie. This tortured life on screen is just an illusion that you only spend a couple hours watching. How fortunate of you. I wonder if you will heed the warning of Caden’s sacrifice. Also, note how his inner world struggles to expand at the pace of his outer world. It is the portents he dreams up becoming real only because he brought them into a subconscious reality earlier. Here’s another angle…I don’t think it’s really Caden’s subconscious on display, well, not completely, I think there’s a lot of Mr. Kaufman in there too.


Get lost in this one, don’t think because you do not have to. The film is sedative in its tones. The lighting in every scene is slightly askew. Not too much, but just enough to kind of get you to tilt your head. That’s when you get curious and start thinking. The movies lulling pace stops you. That’s the state this film puts you in, like a dream where you are riding a roller coaster. Nothing but peaks and valleys with very little jostling around.



This film which was written by Charlie Kaufman and his brother Donald and was “based” on the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean is an odd sort of middle ground between the two films above.


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