Ready for the laughing gas and a new week

I’m torn over whether to see Synecdoche, New York. The last graf of the New York Times review is enticely haunting and encouraging.

Despite its slippery way with time and space and narrative and Mr. Kaufman’s controlled grasp of the medium, Synecdoche, New York is as much a cry from the heart as it is an assertion of creative consciousness. It’s extravagantly conceptual but also tethered to the here and now, which is why, for all its flights of fancy, worlds within worlds and agonies upon agonies, it comes down hard for living in the world with real, breathing, embracing bodies pressed against other bodies. To be here now, alive in the world as it is rather than as we imagine it to be, seems a terribly simple idea, yet it’s also the only idea worth the fuss, the anxiety of influence and all the messy rest, a lesson hard won for Caden. Life is a dream, but only for sleepers.

But the first and last lines of the Slate review make me run.

Synecdoche, New York (Sony Pictures Classics) is a very sad movie for two reasons. First off, the story, about a theater director who’s sucked into the vortex of his own impossible artistic ambitions, is unremittingly bleak, making for one of the most depressing nondocumentary films you’re likely to see, well, ever. But secondly–and in the long run, more movingly–Synecdoche is sad because it’s a constant reminder, a ghostly double, of the great movie it could have been. … I just never want to have to see this movie again.

The reviews overall seem dramatically split not over the interpretation but over whether the interpretation is valuable. Reading, you sense the personal is hard to divorce here. How valuable is the deep and hard-edged introspection to the viewer? What should Kaufman’s take matter to our own? What’s our own introspection — at this diving level — worth? How should another’s media presentation of that chase compete in the economy of our time, at the movies or on Earth?

I guess the trailer got my attention.

You’re going to hate the Internet for not having “The Boy Who Had Never Seen the Sea” in the latest New Yorker for similar reasons. The charge you get from the reasons for experience lies underneath the beautiful writing, with the experience versus the reasoning falling out together versus satisfaction, major or minor. Thank you to Nobel for putting J.M.G. Le Clezio on the map. I hardly know what graf of the short story to put here, so I’m just going to take the first one.

He was called Daniel, but he would have liked to be called Sinbad, because he had read about Sinbad’s adventures in the big red leather-bound book he always carried with him, to class and to the dormitory. In fact, I think it was the only book he’d read. He didn’t talk about it, except occasionally, when someone asked him directly. Then his black eyes would shine even brighter, and his knife blade of a face would suddenly come to life. But he was a boy who didn’t speak much in general. He never joined the conversations of others, unless the discussion involved the sea or travels. Most men are men of the land; that’s just the way it is. They are born on the land, and it’s the land and the things of the land that interest them. Even sailors are often men of the land: they like houses and women; they talk about politics and cars. But this boy, Daniel — it was as if he belonged to another race. Terrestrial things bored him — stores, cars, music, movies, and, of course, his schoolwork. He didn’t talk about it; he didn’t even yawn to express his boredom. He’d just sit in one spot — on a bench or on the stairs overlooking the courtyard — and stare into space. He was a mediocre student, who did only the work he needed to get by. When a teacher called his name, he stood and recited the lesson, then he sat down again and that was that. It was as if he were sleeping with his eyes open.

One can make a quick case for a gay subtext (the octopus he loves is named Wyatt), but it’s not entirely there. The relationship of dreams and action sits big. Thematically, selling seashells by the seashore may be a more complicated industry in France than elsewhere. I don’t know how unjust these hit-and-run emotional takeaways are, to art or self, subtracting society from the sea story or the bat suit from Dark Knight or the BDSM from The Secretary or the smallball ire from work or the purpose from days off or the details from a txt lighting your phone.

But no one’s stopping you. You can take your meaning and walk.

One thought on “Ready for the laughing gas and a new week”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *