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The Beautiful Transience of Synecdoche, New York

[I wrote this right after seeing the movie for the first time. In August. But then I let this draft sit, maybe thinking I’d come back and edit and refine. Re-reading it now, I think it doesn’t need refinement because it is a true first and immediate reaction. Just posted with delay. So it goes.]

I was reluctant to see this. I resisted this movie. The previews made it seem, well, they focused on the toilets, the shit-stirring (literally), the shlubby guy who keeps getting hot women to want him and love him; it seemed to be all about the shlub, the guy, and it seemed dark, cynical, depressing. Not something I wanted to deal with at the time. It looked darker than what I thought I could handle then. The laugh’s on me now because my actual life got much much darker than I thought I could handle. Perhaps I should have watched the movie sooner. The person who saw the movie and told me about it tried to get me to watch it but also did not succeed in making it sound appealing. He failed to mention the German dialog parts. Failed to mention the absolute beauty in this story. I think maybe he tried to tell me but I couldn’t hear. Or he couldn’t find the right words for me. Which is funny, because he writes too, he knows about choosing words.

Sunday felt like the right time all of a sudden. I’ve had all the darkness in my life now that I can handle. It’s a clarifying place to be. I find I am stripping down in many ways, trying to lose ballast. Fewer books, fewer CDs, fewer things. Out with this stuff, it’s too much. My emotions are streamlined, worn into one groove. It’s a good place from which to watch this movie. The start was slow. Lots of obvious references to death, illness, decay, the rotting flesh and material world in which we stumble about. Yes, death, excrement, death, blood, etc. Stirring the shit, as promised by the previews.

But then there is a building towards something transcendent. There is humor, slight and twisted, but I smiled anyway. And I took from this movie a real feeling of transience and the beauty of that. It felt like life, it felt real even as it was entirely, obviously, glaringly artificial. Fake, make belief, but so so real. Something true and tough and real. That was the goal of the theater piece and for me that was the goal the movie achieved. I cried. I cried for the beauty of it, in the decrepit shape of Philip Seymour Hoffman (PSH). It was beautiful. And it was beautiful in large part because the final narrative was Ellen’s. The switch of director (theatre piece), from Caden (PSH) to Ellen (Dianne Wiest) is inspired and fantastic and lovely. The director’s voice in your ear, telling you what to do, isn’t that what we all want? A guiding voice, someone who knows what the next step is. I love the last scene. I love it. Gentle and forgiving and at peace and yet interrupted. Real, true, tough. Beautiful transience.

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