Recent "Synecdoche" News
The rapture of language, female artists, doubles, honest subjectivity and other heavy stuff
Here's an old interview that I don't think I've posted before. It's from the tail end of the Synecdoche press junket, and Charlie talks with Walter Chaw about some things I haven't seen him discuss before. It gets pretty deep.
FILM FREAK CENTRAL: Talk to me about the rapture of language.
CHARLIE KAUFMAN: You pick something very difficult for someone who's very tired. (laughs; long, thoughtful pause) Oh gosh. You know. Obviously I'm very interested in language, I use it in my work and I realize that... I've come to the conclusion that it isn't the thing. You know. It isn't the thing it describes. It can't really in most cases get close to the thing. I'm always trying to write in the chaos of experience as opposed to at a distance. I'm not interested in having perspective in the things that I write about--I'm interested in writing about them from where I am. Because that's always where you are. You never have perspective. You aren't really telling a story, you're never telling a story, story's what happens ten years down the line looking back.
So you begin with what you don't know?
(laughs) It's true, it's really backwards from the conventional wisdom of what you're supposed to write. You're never supposed to write about something that you don't have that distance from. It's weird. But we never live in that place from which we write about: it's always a fiction. I noticed a few years ago as I was going through a depression (voice drops) that was really serious that it was completely non-verbal. I couldn't explain it. I couldn't talk about it. The only way I knew that it wasn't happening anymore was that I could talk about it--then I could describe it and say that this was what my depression was, what it felt like. But at the same time that I could do it, I realized that it was completely unrelated to the experience of being in the middle of it, which was not in any way a verbal experience.
Does that frustrate empathy?
I was having this conversation recently with Amy Pascal at Sony, we were talking about this story that I wanted to try to find the place, even though language is used, where the language is not. I wanted to find that truth. Which is a very hard thing to do I guess because we communicate in language and just in our interactions we're limited to communicating to each other in language. I guess in that sense, I don't know if that addresses your question, but those are the kinds of things that I worry about in my writing. (Source)
And if you're still wondering what was happening in Synecdoche, New York, here's a quote where Charlie seems to address it more directly than usual: "I wanted to externalize his interior world which, I think, is what dreams do."
Thanks to Julie for this one.
(Updated!) Camila Meza covers "Little Person"
Camila Meza is a jazzy singer/guitarist from Chile, and her latest album, "Traces," features a cover of "Little Person," from Synecdoche, New York. Here she is performing it live:
Update: Camila contacted BCK and provided a link to a better quality video. Thanks, Camila!
I came across it via Pop Matters' review of the album.
The other spectacular cover here is Meza’s closing version of “Little Person”, which is a tune from the intriguing Charlie Kaufman movie Synechdote, NY, written by Jon Brion. The original was a subtle stride piano feeling, and Meza keeps things simple here, accompanying herself on guitar only, offering up something as tender and heartfelt as jazz has to offer these days. (Source)
30 day film has 7 hour trailer
It's called Ambiancé. Caden Cotard would be pleased.
We're not entirely sure why you'd need to watch a seven-hour trailer in order to work out whether you fancy seeing a film that lasts for 30 days, but cancel your plans - one has arrived.
Swedish director Anders Weberg has released a second full-length trailer for his upcoming experimental film Ambiancé and it runs for a total of 439 minutes.
Weberg, who is also an artist, released a 72-minute long teaser trailer last year. He reportedly has an even bigger one due for release in 2018 (mark your calendars now) that will run for 72 hours. (Source)
Here's the new trailer:
Watching Charlie Kaufman movies stoned
Suzette Smith from the Portland Mercury has been watching Charlie's films stoned, and blogging the results. Someone had to do it, right? She has worked her way through all six of Charlie's films (including Confessions and Human Nature!) in the lead-up to Anomalisa. Here's part of Synecdoche:
Okay, I immediately regret watching this movie stoned. I feel like I’m missing a lot of important things, but I’m also unable to hold back that sinking feeling that accompanies conceptualizing the inevitable decline of existence. That’s my toast and tea when I’m not stoned. Shit!
[...] He’s dead, right? People keep saying stuff like: "Then you died." But they also tell him he abandoned his family when clearly his wife left him. The passage of time is suspicious. That also leads me to believe he’s dead.
[...] When I was done watching Synecdoche, New York I was still high and I felt like shit. My notes are: "I don’t know how I’m going to write about this. I want to put down my notes and walk away." (Source)
There are links to the other films in that post.
A flashback, in which Charlie isn't sure that he exists
I don't think I've seen this before. It's an old piece in Time Out, around the time Synecdoche, New York was released, in which Charlie talks about Synecdoche, "fun" movies vs. Charlie movies, and not knowing whether he exists. The entire article is one long Charlie Kaufman quote--9 paragraphs, pieced together by interviewer Tom Huddleston--and it's a good read.
Part of life is the struggle to try and find meaning. It’s not unique to a writer. I guess there’s a certain futility in it, in that we know so little about what’s happening in the world. I mean that in a profound way: I don’t even know that I exist, let alone what’s happening.There are so many questions and there’s so much confusion and limitation in the human brain, in the same way as in a dog’s brain. We can see clearly that there’s so much that a dog will never understand, ever, no matter how much you teach him. Just move up a couple of steps on the chain and you have to come to the conclusion that we’re pretty much in the dark in a cosmic sense. We don’t know what’s going on, what reality is, and even if there is such a thing. (Source)
Synecdoche features in "Arts in Entertainment," a Kickstarter project
Synecdoche, New York features as part of a six-book series called "Arts in Entertainment" on Kickstarter.
With this series of books -- which will continue as long as authors and readers exist to carry it -- each author takes one particular work of art...novel, album, movie, anything at all...and shares the experience of being changed (deeply, urgently, irreversibly) as a result.
The books are as varied as their authors. They're funny, they're tragic, they're charming. They're profound and they're silly. They take sharp turns into memoir, history, interview, self-help, criticism, confession, and psychology.
Zachary Kaplan writes Synecdoche, New York, the fourth book in the series:
Synecdoche, New York is a film about life, time, memory, and our struggle to find meaning in our stories and stories in our lives. These ideas always resonated with my worldview, but after my mother took her own life, they began to take on a much greater significance to me.
They began to help me understand her suicide, my grief and my purpose. As I explore the film, I will use it as a compass to guide me through the grieving process as I plumb the emotional depths of the movie and of myself; to do anything less is to not heal fully. My mother is the fourth member of our family to take her own life, after her father, her mother and her brother.
I will intimately discuss ideas in this film as well as my family's sad past, one story illuminating the other. In doing so, I will put myself through an emotional hell -- and, hopefully, come out stronger in the end.
Writing this book is my dealing with it, my therapy. Writing this book is my grief process. Writing this book is my moving on. Writing this book is my ending the cycle.
You can find more info on the Kickstarter page. 16 days left in the fundraiser.
Thanks to David!
Bite-sized New York on Youtube
Associated Press is uploading its film archive to Youtube, a massive undertaking, and the Village Voice have singled out a bunch of New York clips on their site. Caden Cotard would dig it.
"Aren’t they a treasure trove?" says Jenny Hammerton, an archivist for the videos based in London. She adds, "The main reason for us putting our collection on YouTube is financial. Up until now, only filmmakers, news channels, and documentary makers really had access to our collection.
"The added bonus to this, of course, is that historians, educators, and members of the general public now have access to the biggest collection of historical material ever loaded up to YouTube." (Source)
Here's "a look at the Flatiron building in 1901, horses and trolleys in 1903, and the subway and Broadway in 1904":
Thanks to Cristian!
Easy listening: What Happens When Your Brain Says You Don't Exist
Anil Ananthaswamy is the author of The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self. In it, he "examines the ways people think of themselves — and how those perceptions can be distorted by certain brain conditions". Among those conditions? Cotard's Syndrome. Fresh Air's Terry Gross interviewed Ananthaswamy, and you can check it out here:
Thanks to Sarah!
Your Movie Sucks' epic Synecdoche series continues
Epic in every sense, Your Movie Sucks continues the video series analysing every grain of Synecdoche, New York. Part 4 dropped recently and although it goes for 21 minutes, it covers roughly 15 minutes of Synecdoche itself. I don't know if I'm on board with everything in the video, but creator Adam Johnston does get your brain working.
If you missed the first 3 parts, do yourself a favour and check 'em out.
Artist with axe reacts poorly to bad reviews of his play
Douglas Gordon's play is not getting good reviews, so he took to the theater wall with an axe.
A Turner prize-winning artist who is directing a play at the Manchester international festival has been hit with a repair bill after taking an axe to the walls of a new £25m theatre. Douglas Gordon, who won the Turner in 1996 for his video piece, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, signed and dated the damage to the concrete walls of the Home venue, where his show Neck of the Woods is being staged.
If he'd spent an extra 16 years rehearsing it in a New York-sized building, perhaps there would have been much more axing involved. Playwrights, man. They be crazy.
Artist makes miniature painting each day
South African artist Lorraine Loots created miniature watercolour paintings every day for two years. The prints are on display at Three Kings Studio in Williamsburg until 15 July. Bedford and Bowery have an interview with Loots, and Rob Scher asks Loots if she has ever seen Synecdoche, New York.
With your “Paintings for Ants” receiving their first international exhibit in New York, your success kind of echoes Catherine Keener’s character in Synecdoche New York. Mostly, what I’m trying to ask is: what’s the deal with miniature art and why do you think people seem to like it so much?
I watched that movie years ago. I still vaguely remember the feeling I had when I watched that scene of [Keener’s] exhibit, it affected me deeply and certainly filtered through… I think it has something to do with the idea of being able to hold something in the palm of your hand. It makes it kind of like a treasure, or a gemstone. People also like to get right up to the painting and there’s something interesting about that. Using a magnifying glass lets them see more than what I saw when I created that painting because I don’t use one. (Source)
Apart For The Whole: subjectivity in "Synecdoche"
Jon McAuliffe sent along an academic paper he wrote a few years ago, "Apart For The Whole: A Look At Subjectivity In The Film, Synecdoche, NY" and we both think some of you might dig it. Says Jon: "It's kind of a structural/psychoanalytic/gender studies take on the film. Just a bit of fun while working on a MFA."
Caden Cotard seems betrayed by his body from the very outset of the Charlie Kaufman film, Synecdoche, NY. The quick read, one that easily carries through the entire film, is that Caden’s pervasive disintegration is related to death. It seems significant, after all, that he shares his name with a syndrome marked by a person’s belief that they are already dead, or undergoing the process of decay. And perhaps this is the reading that the writer/director wanted us to take: that Caden is already at the instance of his death from the very beginning, balancing in the twilight moment after consciousness fades, but before his unconscious withers away entirely along with his body. One could imagine this to be the case, considering that the film opens with the ringing of Caden’s alarm clock at 7:44, and that near the very end of the film, the disembodied voice of Millicent, a woman who has become Caden’s directorial replacement, announces the time as 7:45, just before telling Caden, “now you are…gone.” But is this the only way we could understand Caden’s body trouble / his life trouble? With all of the powerful implications of that reading aside, I would like instead to consider Caden’s deterioration, and the mirrored deterioration of Caden’s “world,” as a brutal investigation of (male?) subjectivity in an instance of interpolative disintegration; or, more simply put, as an erosion of the self.
In-depth video series analyses "Synecdoche, New York"
Here's a great series of videos from Your Movie Sucks, analysing Synecdoche, New York. Each video goes for around 20 minutes. So far there are 3 parts online, and their creator estimates it'll take another 2 parts to reach the end. (Part 1 hit the web in December; Part 3 in April.)
If you're a film-maker, you might notice that he gets one of his facts wrong about the way the words "SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK" first appear on the screen; don't worry, he corrects himself at the start of the second video.
This is really cool, deep, astute look at the movie.
Thanks to Max for sending me the link!
Parts 2 and 3 are behind the cut.
ICYMI: Teeny tiny paintings on odd things
Hasan Kale paints micro-art on matchsticks, sugar cubes, lipstick, and it's amazing. Adele Lack would be envious.
(Posted this on our FB page while the site was down.)
Living With Being Dead: Cotard's Syndrome
Matter's Erika Hayasaki visited Mexico's National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery to learn about Cotard's Syndrome.
This terrifying disorder turns people into zombies, into living, breathing ghosts; they believe they died, or never existed. And somewhere in their brains may be the key to human consciousness.
[...] Most of the patients here have been diagnosed with garden-variety neurological disorders: schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, severe depression, or bipolarism. But the ones I am searching for are different. They suffer from an affliction even more puzzling: They believe that they are dead.
It’s a rare disorder called Cotard’s syndrome, which few understand. For patients who have it, their hearts beat and lungs pump, yet they deny their existence or functionality of their bodies, organs or brains. They think their self is detached. (Source)
24-year theater project begins in Philly
Art imitating art:
The spectacle - exhilaration and humiliation all muddled together, on stage as in life - will appear at FringeArts Thursday through Dec. 13 in the form of The Sincerity Project. Then, if all goes as planned, it will return with the same cast every few years for the next 24 years. Like a live-theater version of the Up documentary films that have tracked a dozen British children since 1964 from age 7 to 56, it will, Torra hopes, capture the aging bodies, evolving relationships, and changing views of seven cast members whose ambitions, impulses, and fears provide content for the show.
This longitudinal study of the effects of life on experimental theater - or is it the other way around? - was born out of Torra's desire to create a performance that was honest.
"I have a weird thing about theater feeling like lies all the time," he said.
So, a few years ago, he and his collaborators set out to make a "sincere" work - one that doesn't just imitate life, but chronicles and interprets it. (Source)
Meanwhile, Tom Noonan has been following him everywhere.
Artist Jason Polan is trying to draw every person in New York
...and he's failing.
Over six years ago, the idea formed in his head, and when it existed in the laboratory that sits between his ears, the concept was so simple, so clean, so utterly perfect in the way a circle drawn by some theoretical supercomputer is perfect. A) There is New York. B) There are people in New York. So, C) There could exist a total, whole and complete document of Every Person in New York.
It’s almost as if Polan has come to terms with what lies at the core of one of art’s great intrinsic dilemmas: The whole thing is, by its very nature, a sisyphean task. That is, in the context of all our constructions surrounding stuff like truth and representation, art is always an attempt at something impossible. It always fails. It’s never perfect because in order to exist, it must exist in the imperfect place we call “here.” (Source)
You can view some of his work at http://everypersoninnewyork.blogspot.ca/
Thanks to Jean-Philippe!
Synecdoche, New York: A Philosophical Analysis
Do you know how many people come here looking for analyses of Synecdoche, New York?
LOTS, is how many.
This one is for you folks. Jordan Siron points us to his "Exploring Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York”: A Philosophical Analysis." It's a meaty read.
Synecdoche, New York is a film that concerns itself with examining solipsism, and in disposing of the harmful concept of “The Other”. Solipsism is the belief that only one’s own mind is certain to exist; that one’s perception of reality and events is the only certainty, the only truth. As a philosophy, it is akin to Objectivism — the belief that the pursuit of one’s own self interest is the only moral obligation to which any human is bound.
Solipsism is a gross philosophy. It does not leave room for the understanding or concern of others. It is diametrically opposed to Altruism, which — while impractical to some extent — at least gives us something worthy to strive for. While one can argue against the practicality of Altruism, it’s hard to rationalize Objectivism and Solipsism as being inherently healthy life philosophies. While they may serve the individual, they do not foster the wellbeing of the human community writ large.
Now, all of that isn’t to say that individuals who prescribe to philosophies that place themselves at the center of their own universe are inherently bad. One can argue that such philosophies drive individuals towards great personal success, and through that success said individuals can turn around and provide aid of which they might not have otherwise been capable. There is a certain benefit to being concerned with one’s own self, but this dissection is not concerned with those few individuals who put their own universes in check before extending their helping hand. So it follows that Synecdoche, New York does not concern itself with such.
The film examines solipsism at its worst, demonstrating the dangers of such a philosophy through its chosen vehicle: Caden Cotard. (Source)
I've been meaning to link to this for aaaaages. I am a horrible website editor person.
Synecdoche is one movie in 2 Movies a Week
2 Movies A Week is a new blog from Sean Phillips. Each week he'll be reviewing a pair of films that folks might've missed, and Synecdoche, New York is one of the first on the site, alongside Life Itself.
I decided to pair these two in my original post because there is a (small) connection between the two.
The first, "Life Itself" (2014) is a brand-spanking-new documentary about the life of the most famous film reviewer who ever lived, Roger Ebert.
The second, "Synecdoche, New York" (2008) is, in this writers opinion, the most ambitionus fictional narrative ever made. It was written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, the Oscar winner for 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' for best original screenplay in 2004. His other credits include writing 'Being John Malcovich'(1999) and 'Adaptation.'(2002) Kaufman was also nominated for best original screenplay again for the latter. Nicholas Cage stared in that film and gave performances worth two Nick Cages. (Source)
Lost in Translation and Summer Hours are the next two to be reviewed.
Comic strip on a single strand of hair
This one, via Gizmodo, goes out to Adele Lack:
Even a perfectly smooth human hair looks like a scaly, alien creature under a microscope. Zoom in on this particular hair, though, and you'll find something even stranger: a teeny, tiny comic strip called "Juanita Knits the Planet."
Ten micron-tall Juanita and her friends were etched onto the hair using a focused ion beam. The microscopic comic strip was created for the Exceptional Hardware Software Meeting, a gathering for open source and DIY enthusiasts in Germany. (Source)
Check out the short video below--and you'll find the comic strip, without the hair, at the link above.
At long last, Italy gets Synecdoche, New York
Synecdoche, New York is finally landing on Italian shores! I had no idea Italy was still waiting for it to arrive.
I think it interests only to Italian fans, but finally June 19, 2014 (after almost 6 years) Synecdoche, New York will be distributed in Italy. The press release says that there has been a long legal battle that prevented the distribution in Italy. This is our poster:
Video: Interpreting "Synecdoche, New York"--passage of time, loneliness, relationships... all that fun stuff.
BCK's logs tell me that a lot of people come here looking for interpretations of Synecdoche, New York. These two videos are for you--David Chen from Slashfilm and Amy Nicholson from L.A. Weekly take a look at the film and what it all might mean. Each video goes for around 13 minutes; the first one's here, the second one's behind the cut.
It's more than a little poignant, given the loss of Hoffman.
Thanks to Thomas for the heads up!
R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46
Philip Seymour Hoffman has been found in a Greenwich Village apartment, dead of a drug overdose at forty-six. Says the New York Times:
The death, apparently from a drug overdose, was confirmed by the police. Mr. Hoffman was found in the apartment by a friend, David Bar Katz, who became concerned after being unable to reach him.
Investigators found a syringe in his left forearm, at least two plastic envelopes with what appeared to be heroin nearby, and five empty plastic envelopes in a trash bin, a law-enforcement official said. (Source)
His family has released this statement:
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone. This is a tragic and sudden loss and we ask that you respect our privacy during this time of grieving. Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers." (Source)
Terribly, terribly sad.
Thanks to Ethan for alerting me.
"Little Person" - a Really Unofficial Music Video
Here's an unofficial music video for "Little Person," with some really gorgeous images. Matt Bauer is the director. A couple of months ago, Matt contacted me, to ask if I had any idea how he might get in touch with the song's publisher or whoever retains the rights for festival screenings. I mentioned Kraft-Engel Management (Jon Brion's reps), Charlie's agent at WME, and Lakeshore Records (they released Synecdoche's soundtrack), but Matt had no luck. If you have any leads, maybe leave a comment on YouTube, or on here?
On an unrelated note, you might've noticed we're doing our annual donation drive thingy, to help cover BCK's running costs. If you feel like helping out, you might want to kick in a couple of bucks via the link in the right-hand sidebar. Every bit's appreciated. :)
Seinfeld's "Parking Garage" as Ballardian nightmare
Omni Reboot's Claire L. Evans has written a really cool article, in which she examines Seinfeld's "Parking Garage" episode as a "Ballardian nightmare: the pornography of infinity, somehow contained within a New Jersey mall." Which brings to mind that giant warehouse with Schenectady inside it, eh?
Indeed, the more I reflect on The Parking Garage, the more it evokes a specifically Ballardian nightmare: this so-called pornography of infinity, contained within a New Jersey mall. Like the Unidentified Space Station [in this short story], which conceals, from the outside, its magnificent vastness, The Parking Garage becomes its own world, a replacement—literally, since they broke the apartment set down to build the mirror-garage—for the comfortable parameters of Jerry Seinfeld’s ordinary world. It seems to have its own mores; Elaine, desperately seeking a stranger to drive them around the lot and help find the car, only comes into contact with indifference and aggression. No one will help, because on some level no one here is real. (Source)
Big thanks to Garrison for the link!
World's tiniest Mona Lisa. Eat your heart out, Adele.
Via Nature World News:
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have painted the smallest-ever image of Mona Lisa. The painting was created using an atomic force microscope and a process called ThermoChemical NanoLithography (TCNL) and is painted on a substrate that is 30 microns in width or about one-third the width of a human hair. (Source)
(Pic above is not actual size. Click on it for an enlargement of the... tiny micro version. Or something.)
Dust mites are gathering around it, going "Ooohhh" and "Aaahhh."
Are Caden Cotard masks a thing? (Askin' for a fan.)
On BCK's Facebook page, Vanisha-Arleen Gould asks:
hypothetical question. if someone wanted to dress up as caden cotard for halloween, where/how would that person be able to get that mask? does that mask exist? (Source)
That would be super cool! I have looked around and come up empty. I suppose any Phil Hoffman mask might do the trick? But where would one find Phil in mask form?
Any help? Anyone?
On an unrelated note, you might've noticed we're doing our annual donation drive thingy, to help cover BCK's running costs. If you feel like helping out, you might want to kick in a couple of bucks via the link in the right-hand sidebar. Every bit's appreciated. :)
31 Strange Medical Conditions (or: Charlie's idea notebook)
Here are "31 Strange Medical Conditions," courtesy of John Green (who is awesome) and the Mental Floss team (also awesome). Charlie doesn't get a mention, nor do his films, but observe this:
#19 - Walking Corpse Syndrome, a.k.a. Cotard's Delusion. Synecdoche, New York's lead character, I probably don't need to point out again, is named Caden Cotard.
#20 - Capgras Delusion. At one point in Synecdoche, when Caden visits Adele’s flat, "Capgras" is one of the names on the building's address list.
#21 - Fregoli Delusion. You know Anomalisa? Charlie's upcoming animated film, based on his own play? When he wrote the play, he originally hid under the pseudonym "Francis Fregoli". (The Coen Bros' half of Theater of the New Year couldn't be performed in L.A., due to scheduling conflicts, so Charlie wrote a second play -- "Anomalisa" -- to double bill with his "Hope Leaves the Theater.")
John Green has a weekly show on the Mental Floss channel. It is cool. I recommend it. I'll embed another episode after the cut. Just for fun. Cos I'm cool, too.
Meet Graham, who thinks he's dead
The New Scientist's Mindscapes column profiles Graham, who has the condition known as Cotard's Syndrome, in which a sufferer believes that he is dead or no longer exists.
"When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren't going to do me any good 'cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn't need to eat, or speak, or do anything. I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death." (Source)
Stuff like this freaks me out a little bit. Also those reality medical shows. One day you're perfectly fine; next thing you know, you're foaming at the mouth and paralysed from the eyebrows down because you picked up a pen with a germ on it. Those make me want to sit still in an empty room and stay quiet for a very long time. But even that could cause medical problems. YOU JUST CAN'T WIN, MAN.
Sweet "Little Person" cover, by Foxtails Brigade
I really like this cover of "Little Person," Jon Brion and Charlie's song from Synecdoche, New York. It's by Foxtails Brigade, a chamber pop band from Oakland, California, and Laura Weinbach's vocals really suit this song. Observe the video: