Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut is unlike any other first time director’s film, but then it’s unlike any other film in existence, period. The noted screenwriter of such modern day masterpieces as BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION, and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND now is presenting us with an epic construction in which art imitates life and life imitates art in such a spellbinding manner that they become entangled so that one isn’t sure if it’s art or life’s parts flailing on the screen in front of them. Attempting to describe the plot may be futile, but I’ll still have a go – Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Cayden Cotard, a playwright in a loveless marriage to an aspiring abstract painter Adele (Catherine Keener). Keener leaves with their daughter to conquer the German art community forcing Hoffman to deal head on with his loneliness and various sicknesses yet he is still inspired with the aid of a large grant to mount what he calls “a massive theater piece.”
Tormented but not creatively constipated, Hoffman assembles a cast and crew in a large warehouse in
Tom Noonan, who can be seen in the background following Hoffman throughout the first half of the film, is hired though he has no acting or theater experience. His experience is in knowing everything there is to know about Hoffman including the address of his ex-wife and he even takes up with Morton. Morton has her own theatrical double in the form of Emily Watson who is neatly attired (and nearly indistinguishable) as a Morton clone. Hoffman takes up with Watson, albeit briefly, but these relationship mechanics hardly define or dominate; they are restless and surprisingly realistic elements that wind in and out of this colossal collage. Though there are many funny moments, the tone is not intensely comical but there is the case of Morton’s house that is on fire and burns for years - echoing the successful surreal tangents of Kaufman’s earlier work.
As layered and multi-leveled as the mock city that Hoffman creates, SYNECDOCHE,