Synecodoche, New York


Writer Charlie Kaufman's (Being John Malkovich) deliriously deranged directorial debut is an ambitious tale of unhappy, unhealthy theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant that he uses to rent out a huge hanger in which he builds an entire city, peopled with actors representing different aspects of his own life. In this fake city he recreates his illnesses, misery and loves -- such as his artist ex-wife (Catherine Keener), and a ticket taker he becomes enamored with (Samantha Morton, who literally lives in a burning building). It's like Fellini's 8 1/2 on 'shrooms, or a whacked-out Wild Strawberries. There will be many who won't have the patience for this weirdness, but there’s a thematic brilliance to Charlie Kaufman's premise about molding art out of your life, and a sense of rueful tenderness at the end.

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