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Synecdoche New York

3.7 out of 5 stars 280 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From Charlie Kaufman, comes a visual and philosophic adventure, "SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK". As he did with his groundbreaking scripts for "Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation", and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", Kaufman twists and subverts form and language as he delves into the mind of a man who, obsessed with his own mortality, sets out to construct a massive artistic enterprise that could give some meaning to his life. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systema

An insanely ambitious, dazzling, maddening movie, Synecdoche, NY is the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the inspired screenwriter of twisty, mind-bending movies like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Broadly summarized, it's about a director named Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who, after his wife leaves him, sets out to create a theater production that will mirror all of life in New York City by literally recreating the city inside of a gigantic warehouse--including versions of his lover, his new wife, and himself, who become so entrenched in his life that eventually there must also be doubles of these doubles... which only describes a fragment of the intertwining storylines. At points even the most attentive viewers may feel confused by the sheer abundance and density of ideas and narrative threads, as the movie veers from mundanity to an exaggerated but not impossible reality to sheer surrealism. But by the end, though the movie folds in on itself multiple times and tries to encompass more of life than any movie can coherently contain, Synecdoche, NY comes to a remarkably full and resonant conclusion. Think of it as Kaufman's version of 8 1/2, another movie about creativity and a conflicted psyche. Hoffman's performance, solid but difficult to empathize with, is balanced by dozens of vivid characters played by an astonishing cast, including Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis, Michelle Williams, Dianne Wiest, Emily Watson, and more. Sprawling, flawed, both intimate and epic, Synecdoche, NY is a unique and impressive achievement that will reward (and perhaps even demands) multiple viewings. --Bret Fetzer

Stills from Synecdoche, New York (click for larger image)

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Wright, Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen, Deirdre O'Connell
  • Directors: Charlie Kaufman
  • Producers: Charlie Kaufman, Sidney Kimmel, Anthony Bregman, Spike Jonze
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (280 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001P3SA8K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,673 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Synecdoche New York" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is a film that's angering to watch at first. It's angering because it's so damn real, and acurate about human sorrow and depression and desperation. It's films like these that have true power; films that anger you at first because it represents how life is, so truthfully that you can't take it. You hate the film when you're done with it. You say you'll never watch it again. But you can't help the fact that it stays with you, and will demand a second viewing, to realize how incredible it really is.

This is a film about the human condition, about depression, about loss. This is the saddest film that Charlie Kaufman has ever wrote, but easily the most universal. Life has the same conditions for all of us; it's simply the time inbetween us not yet being born and us being dead. And we're all crammed into this little world secretly thinking we can live forever, so we fixate on small things for longer than we should be allowed to. Life should be embraced, even if it's damn near impossible to for some of us.

This wasn't a typical review; this film cannot be simply reviewed at all. It's just one that we should all see.
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The question for this complex and weird film is whether writer-director Charlie Kaufman's artistic ambition will ultimately frustrate viewer patience. When I saw the film, a couple in front of me walked out halfway through. You will probably love or hate this film; reviews have been sharply divided.

Philip Seymour Hofmann stars as Caden Cotard, a theater director mired in all the midlife crises, real and imagined, of body, mind and spirit. The film begins conventionally enough, or so it seems, but there are telltale signs early-on that Kaufman is going to play with reality itself -- a cartoon on the family TV features Caden as a character, and a realtor walks a client through a house that is permanemtly on fire. Those are two ominous metaphors.

The giveway is that the name "Cotard" bears a striking resemblance to that of the French postmodernist Jean-Francois Lyotard. We shouldn't be surprised when Caden quits his career doing theater among the "blue hairs" in suburban Schenectady, New York, where his latest production was "Death of a Salesman," and with the help of a MacArthur genius grant (a cruel irony given his circumstances) moves to a cavernous warehouse in New York City and recreates his confused life through what eventually becomes a cast of hundreds of characters. Yes, life is a stage and we're the actors.

In his book The Post-Modern Condition (1979), Lyotard made (in)famous the notion of "incredulity toward meta-narrrative," a fancy way of saying that there are no truly universal or absolute meanings or truths in life, and that all meaning is a personal or social construction. This is exactly what Caden tries to do -- he creates meaning in his life through characters who portray his life.
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Format: DVD
The first thing I would like to point out is that it will be disliked by a lot of people at first, but later be loved by many just like Citizen Kane. Don't believe me? You can either 1) read Ebert's review, or 2) wait and see for yourself.

Synecdoche, New York isn't only the best movie of the year, but it is the best movie that Charlie Kaufman has written to date. It's a film that everyone needs to watch more than once to get what he is trying to say. There are scenes that is impossible to know if they are real or just a dream. Time moves at a different pace and you never really know where you're at. But the most interesting part of the movie lies with the purpose of the writing; Charlie Kaufman wanted to write a horror movie. And not just any typical genre film, but things that scare him. He puts the fear of being alone, of dying by a random cause, of being rejected in everything that you do. Kaufman does such a good job writing for Caden that you begin to feel his pain, to feel his fear. That is true talent. The movie isn't made to scare you, rather Kaufman wanted to do something original with the horror genre. [...]
If you haven't seen the movie yet don't go to the site. It has spoilers galore. Aside from the writing, the direction and the acting is phenomenal, especially the performance given by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It just goes to show you that the Oscars really do overlook some of the best movies of the year. Once you get into the movie there is no escaping it until it is over.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For me, this movie woke me up about a half hour in with the realization that I was watching and hearing thoughts that have been in my own head for years. If you find your inner voice keeping you up late at night, going over and over the same painful questions then I think you will be familiar with the experience of watching this film.

Keeping in mind that most sane people seek professional help and pharmaceutical relief from this experience, it does seem like an odd choice to market the experience in DVD form. That said, I find it strangely therapeutic to know that I am not alone in my head, Charlie is there to keep me company. I believe it was the philosopher, Pascal, who suggested that the strongest motivation in our lives is to distract ourselves from the reality that life is, for the most part, an horrible and painful experience. This film is not a distraction it is a mirror. For those out there that prefer to believe that life is a precious and beautiful miracle, and take their prozac and church services seriously... You might want to stay away from this movie.

To the nuts and bolts of the film. The only things that are taking some time to get used to are the obvious jumps out of reality. Living in a smoldering house for example, the airplane scene is another. My question is how these whimsical elements fit in film about the torture of life? Maybe that, as predictable as you feel life has become, occasionally you will be surprised by surreal moments? Or maybe it is just Charlie sticking his head in your face reminding you to smile?

If you're a person that should be on antidepressants but choose not to be because you believe life should be experienced rather than hidden from you might appreciate this film.. If you "don't get it" I guess you can be thankful? Or maybe you need to watch it again with the idea in mind that for a lot of people, this the reality that goes on between their ears.
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