Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Lev in Charlie Kaufman's Brain. By Way of Toronto.

Here's more from Lev @ TIFF who I introduced to you yesterday. There's a few interruptions from me too since I can never keep my mouth shut.
Well, I (Lev) am back from another day at TIFF. Rushed down to the Varsity to catch a press screening of Synecdoche, New York (we lied and pretended to be volunteers). I
t was pretty exciting. Really felt like you were in some VIP room. Saw Brian De Palma as well. He looked very strange. Tiny face, huge body, and, well, bad filmmaker (in my opinion), but that's neither here nor there.
Actually it's there since here DePalma is a good filmmaker -- or at least an uneven one worth putting up with. You know how I need my annual Carrie fix and you never know when you might hit the delirious heights of a Black Dahlia or Scarface even if that means you have to sit through the rest of the movie. Anywayyyyy, this is Lev's post not mine.
What's more important is Synecdoche, New York. Unfortunately, I'm not a gifted enough writer to properly explain why I believe that the new Charlie Kaufman picture is a masterpiece. For the first hour or so, it's the most outlandish, irreverent insanity I've ever seen. I was rolling in my seat in hysterics. Then it takes a turn and well, I truly can't properly describe the power of the last 30-40 minutes. It's like watching a genius' head put up on the screen for all to see. The amount of ideas to take in is astonishing.

I was completely engaged though it felt like a long time. But not in a I-Just-Have-To-Get- Through-This-Way, but in that I was completely caught up in the characters' lives; like I'd been with them for a long time. Don't let the hard to spell and pronounce title throw you off, this is one of the best films of the last decade.
Yay! I'm glad to hear genuine enthusiasm in regards to this picture rather than head scratching. I could've lived without Philip Seymour Hoffman as the centerpiece planet with two handfuls of wonderful female actors in his orbit but my Nicolas Cage aversion didn't stop me from digging Kaufman's Adaptation at first.

Next up Lev took in Sugar from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson) which is about a young man from the Dominican Republic who wants to play ball in Iowa due to Field of Dreams. What a moviemovie set up... but he didn't like it much.
Decent acting, poorly shot, dull story. It wasn't terrible, but I could have happily gone without seeing it. Unfortunate, because I'm a big Half Nelson fan. The screening was lots of fun, though. There was a huge reserved section and Jason Reitman came in and took a seat, talked on the phone and then left before the movie started. The directors came up and said a few awkward words before the film and there was a Q & A afterwards.

Q & A's are really, really, really awkward. It's basically a chance for the audience to either tell the rest of the audience and the filmmakers what the movie was about or to kiss ass.
You can say that again. Those are the two most common developments at Q & A's though I usually enjoy them anyway (I even gave Q&A awards last year for fun).


Anonymous said...

I just got back from Synecdoche and my head still hurts. I'll need some time to let the film settle in before I talk more about it. I did enjoy it though, I know that much. The large audience I saw it with also seemed to enjoy it, though many were (expectedly) left scratching their heads. Kaufman refused to answer any questions regarding the meaning of anything within the film, as well as the film itself. One after another puzzled audience members asked, and one after another were left as confused as they were before they raised their hand. He's quite a character that Charlie Kaufman (with an awesome head of hair!). Being John Malkovich still remains my favorite film written by him, followed by Eternal Sunshine. Synecdoche is a wild ride, and I'll definitely need to see it for a 2nd (3rd, 4th ... 67th) time. It's definitely seems to be the type of film that gets better with each viewing.

I'll be working at the gala screenings of The Lucky Ones and Fifty Dead Men Walking before heading off to the midnight madness screening of Martyrs which caused a ruckus at Cannes. Can't wait!

Rob said...

Everyone opinion I've heard about this movie is one of the three: "I absolutely loved it... and I can't explain why," "Uhhh... It made my head hurt, so it most be brilliant" and "It was boring and confusing. Me no understand. Me want Brendan Fraser fighting something CGI."

That said, I appreciate Lev's take on it, but can we at least --tentatively-- put a moratorium on the word "masterpiece"?

"The Dark Knight's" a masterpiece. "WALL-E's" a masterpiece. "Babylon A.D.'s" a masterpiece.

It just seems like a descriptor people trot out when they want to raise eyebrows or get attention, but it's gotten to the point where the word has lost all meaning because people apply it anytime they love a film.

Anonymous said...

Well, I only use the world very rarely. I certainly never any of those three films you mentioned masterpieces. I'd only use that term for a film that I'd give an A. And I do that rarely.

Anonymous said...

*I certainly would never call any of those three films you mentioned masterpieces.

-Messed that up.

Anonymous said...

I don't know.. I mean I've seen the film (about a month or two ago at the Jerusalem festival) and i really liked it all up into the end.

In the end it just got.. charlie-kaufman-wanky-ish weird...

But up to that point i loved it.
It was really different from anything else he did - not quirky, More poetic or something.But then they finally got to the actual plot it... well it was no different than being john malkovich and I've seen
that already.

But, coming from a guy that didn't really liked Being John Malkovich, and hated Adaptation, maybe that's a good thing?

Also: I really, REALLY liked phillip in this role. He was just.. excellent. so fucking... real, or something i dunno.

Anyway, i can guarantee that most other people out there will like it, at the very least.

- Johnathan

Anonymous said...

I agree that the word masterpiece is thrown around a lot, usually right after someone has seen, or believes to have seen, something great. In the spur of the moment, and with the film fresh in their minds, they are tempted to call it a masterpiece. Don't get me wrong Lev, I'm not calling you one of these people! I'm just saying in general it's what I've noticed.

I personally wouldn't call Synecdoche a masterpiece. Perhaps I will upon reevaluation but right now, no. Good film, but not great. I do think The Dark Knight is a masterpiece (along with being much more accessible to audiences).

Kelda said...

I would have to disagree with death merchant that most people would at least enjoy it. I think the film is not accessible to general audiences. I think most people would find it too bizarre, muddied and confusing.

I do agree that Seymour Hoffman was great in it (well duh, right? surprise, surprise=). And I particularly liked Hope Davis as his psychiatrist. I thought she was a riot.

Rob said...

Um, excuse me for ignorance, but... how the fuck did all you people already see "Synecdoche" and how can I?!?

Matt Noller said...

I saw SYNECDOCHE at Cannes, and I would call it a masterpiece as well. Which, like Lev, is not a term I throw around lightly - I would say there's no more than eight or nine movies so far this decade I would describe that way.

(And THE DARK NIGHT isn't even close to one of them - come on, people.)

Glenn Dunks said...

Just because somebody doesn't like Synecdoche doesn't mean all they like are Brendan Fraser adventure movies.


rob i had the same reaction reading this. i was like WHEN WHEN WHEN. must have now. no fair.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what kamikaze camel said. I don't think Synecdoche is a masterpiece. I think Kaufman has done much better work. And yes, I do think The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. Hmm, should i feel less just because i think a comic book film is a masterpiece and an intellectual mind-boggler is not?

Hmm, only 8 or 9 films so far this decade as GREAT as Synecdoche. Umm.

Anonymous said...

I feel some people are pretty snobby when it comes to film. I think many would look at Dark Knight as a masterpiece. And they are just as relevant as those who think Synecdoche is a masterpiece.
"(And THE DARK NIGHT isn't even close to one of them - come on, people.)"
Ugh...sounds pretty snobby to me. Okayyyy, so Synecdoche is only one of less than ten films you would call a masterpiece THIS decade? That's pretty sad because to me, Synecodoche is nowhere near a flawless film, or even a near flawless film which is what defines a masterpiece to me. I saw the film at TIFF and not many people I know enjoyed it. And the ones I know that did enjoy it are snobby wannabe intellectuals who think they've seen something brilliant just because it's so far fetched. They can't even explain a single things about the film to me, and when they do it's a jumbled interpretation. Oh, please.

Matt Noller said...

"Hmm, should i feel less just because i think a comic book film is a masterpiece and an intellectual mind-boggler is not?"

No. I never said anything anywhere close to that. "Not a masterpiece" doesn't mean it's bad, or that you're an idiot for liking it. People can have differences of opinion without insulting or dismissing those who disagree - something you don't seem to get.

"Hmm, only 8 or 9 films so far this decade as GREAT as Synecdoche. Umm."

"And the ones I know that did enjoy it are snobby wannabe intellectuals who think they've seen something brilliant just because it's so far fetched"

Or maybe I think it's brilliant becacuse it is a remarkably ambitious, honest, moving look into human nature and its relationship to the artistic process.

You disagree, and that's fine, but I mean, seriously, wow. Pot, meet kettle. Your attitude is just as snobby, if not moreso, than anything you are accusing me of. Especially since nothing I said was actually snobby.

For the record, I really like THE DARK KNIGHT - it's one of my favorite movies of the year. But I think it's been way overpraised, and the idea that it's some sort of masterpiece is absurd to me. Not because it's a comic book movie, or because I think it's somehow innately "lesser," but because I think it has some glaring flaws. Just like - guess what? - you think SYNECDOCHE does.