i know how to do the play now…

Thing number 74 you can do during quarantine times: share art. Today I watched my favorite movie with someone who’d never seen it. The movie is Charlie Kaufaman’s Synecdoche, New York. 

When I first heard three of my favorite female actors were going to be in a movie written and directed by my favorite screenwriter, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman to boot, I was so excited. But then it only played in the artsy places downtown and, unlike in my pre-kid years, I couldn’t make it out during its brief run. But online stuff was around so I remember ordering the Blu ray ahead of time and after it finally showed up I waited each night, for five nights straight, until everyone went to bed and I devoured it. I watched it over and over and could not stop thinking about it.

When we finished today I got the wordy question I usually do as the credits roll: “explain?” When I was chasing a lit minor to go with my education degree as an adult student returned from the parental trenches, I remember most other students in lit studies classes writing papers and leading discussions about theories having to do with the one and only Harold Potter or Disney stuff. I wrote the most in depth, theoretical rabbit hole nosediving, and definitely pretentious, paper positing that SNY, Kaufman’s meditation on solipsism, was actually an attempt at creating a character, Caden Cotard (the name means something, the title means something, everything is something!), to be a metaphor for the artist’s obviously impossible struggle to reach the Lacanian “Real” through pure creation.

So I tried to dig into the dark recesses of my brain for tidbits from that little ditty in order to answer the question. I snatched bits and pieces, but really, no. And yet, it is still my favorite film of all time. Maybe precisely because it does demand attention. And, honestly, either a bunch of doctorates or lots of googling. So, if you can find it, and you want to get lost in some drearily beautiful art as a way to re-engage your brain after diving headlong into the world of Joe Exotic and his cats, or Tick Tox, or Animal Crossings, or any other diversion du jour (which we all need and deserve), watch this film. Just don’t expect clarity. I think whatever you take from it will be enough. Maybe you, too, will watch it like 50 times and try to form some outline of a structure of a template of a meaning. 

Life is not always as linear in its messaging as we think. Sometimes exploring the nebulous can be exhilarating. Challenge does not always need to be rewarded with happy endings clarity. Art is, whatever you decide. To me, there’s comfort in a hole-y narrative like that.

4 thoughts on “i know how to do the play now…

  1. Oh, I love that last paragraph! I will definitely be looking up this movie. I love a movie that challenges me to find the meaning, instead of serving it on a platter. Thank you for sharing!


  2. There is a lot of truth to what you say. As much as we crave resolution in our endings for both art and real life, it’s just not always the case – and sometimes that makes the experience all the richer.


  3. There’s so many layers in the slice here. The cerebral pull towards the comfort in the curiously unknown. The sharing it with someone for the first time. The backstory and current value it holds on the times.


  4. It’s good. Never seen it but will have to check it out. I could watch anything with PSH. Even the darkest of dark movies he starred in. Such an artist. Such a great loss.


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