Synecdoche in Schenectady

âÄúSynecdoche, New YorkâÄù Directed by: Charlie Kaufman Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Tom Noonan Rated: R Showing at: Uptown Theater: (612) 825-6006 While there have always been heart-wrenching tragedies, from SophoclesâÄô âÄúOedipus RexâÄù to BenigniâÄôs âÄúLife is Beautiful,âÄù few reach the wide scope of âÄúSynecdoche, New York,âÄù the newest film from Charlie Kaufman, most famous for writing âÄúEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.âÄù Synecdoche is a breath-taking attempt to capture the entire human condition in a little over two hours. Its final product is an impressive interweaving of sorrow and loneliness. An accomplished director, Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) receives a grant to complete an original piece. The letter encourages âÄúsomething true.âÄù In response, Caden enlists an enormous theater and casts actors to perform each day without an audience, improvising on cues that he has written on little scraps of paper âÄî anything from âÄútoday, you cannot stop biting your tongueâÄù to âÄúyou were raped last night.âÄù As the production begins, Caden mumbles sorrowfully, âÄúWe are all hurtling toward death, each of us knowing we will [die] but thinking we wonâÄôt,âÄù a line that captures the entire essence of the film, tragic and startlingly blunt. The âÄúplayâÄù acts, as its title implies, as a synecdoche, a theatrical microcosm to the cruel universe laying in wait outside the theater, and our eternal, internal process of grappling with death. The brilliant writing takes a hold of this ambitious project and soars far beyond expectations. Though the directing was at times immature, with awkward cuts and fadeouts to imply the passage of large spans of time and lingering shots of nothingness that could have been excised, the pace of the movie didnâÄôt drag as much as it could have. The film is constantly propelled by ironic imagery, like a secretary purchasing a house perpetually on fire that never actually burns down, or CadenâÄôs ex-wife (Catherine Keener) painting portraits so miniscule that visitors to the museum have to use magnifying glasses to view them. HoffmanâÄôs Caden is brilliantly melancholy and staunchly joyless, an examination of the depression pervasive in modern life. While directing, Caden addresses a teenage boy cast in the lead of âÄúThe Death of a Salesman,âÄù telling him, âÄúthe tragedy is that we know that you, the young actor, will wind up in this very place of desolation.âÄù The glum tone of the film is augmented by its meandering soundtrack. Stark, screeching violins and dramatic pauses awkwardly encourage the audienceâÄôs own introspection. âÄúSynecdocheâÄù is a wildly ambitious cinematic production. Its hopeless tone is redeemed time and again by the filmâÄôs expert dialogue and excellent acting on every end. KaufmanâÄôs project is not only an expert exploration of death, but also, as Caden corrects the man he eventually casts to play himself: âÄúIt is about dating. ItâÄôs about everything.âÄù **** out of five stars Editor’s note: Thanks to readers for pointing out the mistake about “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Kaufman wrote it not directed it; it was directed by Michel Gondry. A print correction was published.