Synecodoche, New York

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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