Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Hipsters are obsessed with social trends, so they have little to say about the past because they don’t care about it, and it’s no surprise they can’t formulate anything for the future because this requires working out the consequences of the present, and doing so beyond their selfish desires. In film, the last bastion for art in the mainstream, this means that regardless of quality, a movie from a few years ago is either something to ignore, or just another title on the rack of your local video store, and you choose it based on the loose, if not mindless, categorization of genre.

The plot for Synecdoche, New York — the celebration of Charlie Kaufman’s graduation from screen writer who has heavy input on final cut, to full-on auteur director — is largely unashamed hipster bait. Hipster bait for intelligent people who like the arts and therefore love to goof off, and so don’t mind layered abstraction that outright indulges in self-reflexivity and borderline solipsism. It faces this solipsism head-on however, and defeats it, unlike recent Christopher/Jonathan Nolan retardation that wants to float above it with a magic carpet of schmaltzy emotion before telling you how proud it is that it’s a product of sell out.

Excluding the schmaltz, this is also the case but to a lesser degree with Birdman (2014), which attempts to marry jazzy outsider hipness with the pain of a want-to-be celebrity, ripped to pieces by the claw of desire for fame. Compare to Synecdoche, and you will see that your offbeat, rude-language films now lack the courage to be socially unacceptable. Synecdoche has no such qualms, and flips off the hierarchy in ways they can’t even understand or intuit, while delving deep into the bacchanal comedy of abstract fear in the face of – process. At certain points, it stops short of saying: “Dude, this thread of reasoning is totally freaking me out.” Finally, without a Zen master’s slap, the artistic will risks even the aching lament of spiritual death in its suicidal race against time and biology to leave a legacy of greatness.

Birdman and Interstellar can’t even touch this wisdom, because their aspirations in the sky are “Oscar” and “Dipstick,” respectively, while all Synecdoche sees in its throes of desolation is “Truth.” This is its success, at a financial loss of $15 million. It cannot be called masterpiece, because its resolution is in some ways weak, and only one or two American films from this century deserve that credit. However, as its crowning caveat, it shows hipsters all and sundry exactly where they can take a hike and fall off a cliff for daring to tread where soulseekers meet.

15 April 2015