Synecdoche, New York (2008)

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Released 1-Oct-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Cast-The Story of Caden Cotard
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-In & Around Synecdoche, New York
Additional Footage-2 x Charlie Kaufman animations
Theatrical Trailer-Synecdoche, New York
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 118:30
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Charlie Kaufman
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman
Michelle Williams
Catherine Keener
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Sadie Goldstein
Tom Noonan
Samantha Morton
Emily Watson
Charles Techman
Hope Davis
Josh Pais
Dianne Wiest
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Jon Brion


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    synecdoche  /si-nek-duh-kee/  n. figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa. - The Australian Oxford Dictionary.

    Schnectady, New York (pronounced similarly) - The ninth-largest city in New York.

    Like many screenwriters, Charlie Kaufman hails from an inconspicuous background in television writing. His progression to cinema was inevitable and in 1999, Kaufman's first feature film, Being John Malkovich was released. Under the intelligent direction of Spike Jonze, this film stood like a beacon in a sea of Hollywood mediocrity. Kaufman's screenplay was so incredibly audacious and downright clever; you just had to wonder what thoughts consumed his mind. Despite a minor blemish with his next venture, Human Nature in 2001, Charlie Kaufman hasn't faulted since.

    Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Adaptation (2002) and the sublime 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have followed - with the latter film earning him a well deserved Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. With all this recognition and critical acclaim, where would Charlie Kaufman go from here? In 2008 Kaufman made his directorial debut, writing and directing his next project, Synecdoche, New York.

    Forty-year-old Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his family live in Schnectady, New York. He is a talented theatre director, who is married to an emerging artist, Adele (Catherine Keener). They have a four-year-old daughter, Olive (Sadie Goldstein), who is fast developing the same hypochondriac traits as her father. Caden is convinced that death is stalking him and this obsession consumes much of his life. He also has problems with his marriage, which only adds to his list of worries.

    Apart from seeing a steady stream of specialist doctors, Caden also has regular clinical visits with a flirtatious therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis) - but he receives no comfort or support from her. Caden finds a good friend and confidant in the theatre's box office receptionist, Hazel (Samantha Morton) - a relationship that he will treasure his whole life.

    Adele has an exhibition of her miniature portraits in Berlin and takes Olive with her. Contrary to their original plans, Adele decides to leave without Caden. Although she claims the short break will be good for their relationship, Adele doesn't return, plunging Caden into loneliness.

    Caden's adaptation of the play, Death of a Salesman wins widespread critical acclaim and he earns himself a very generous Macarthur Grant. He rents a massive warehouse and begins to cast the most ambitious play ever attempted - his play of life.

    Synecdoche, New York also features the acting talents of Tom Noonan, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson and Dianne Wiest. To briefly summarise the narrative in a couple of paragraphs is impossible and to be fair, it's probably best not to reveal too much of the plot anyway.

    This film is Kaufman's most philosophical and probably his most ambiguous. Like his previous work, Synecdoche, New York must be viewed more than once to fully appreciate the complexity of the writing. The film is wildly eccentric, surreal (note the burning house scenes), frequently funny and ultimately, quite moving.

    I wouldn't suggest for a minute that this is a film for the masses. If you're already a fan of Charlie Kaufman, then this film is an absolute must see. If you haven't yet seen any of his work, it might be wise to start with one of his previous offerings.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Synecdoche, New York is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.33:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. This is extremely close to the correct ratio of 2.35:1.

    Without being startling, the transfer has a good degree of sharpness and clarity. Blacks were clean and shadow detail was excellent.

    The colour palette used in Synecdoche, New York is generally subdued. These colours were well balanced, with no apparent issues.

    There were no MPEG artefacts evident. Film-to-video artefacts were well controlled and film artefacts were non-existent.

    English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available on this disc. These are easily legible in bold white and are very accurate.

    This is a DVD9, dual-layered disc. The layer change is well placed at 74:23.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio tracks available on the DVD - English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kb/s) and English Descriptive Narration Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kb/s). Descriptive narration is an excellent function, which isn't used enough on DVD. It allows a visually impaired person to visualise the film. On this disc the descriptions are accurate and are spoken in an Australian accent.

    Dialogue quality was generally good, although I did need to increase the volume above my normal listening level.

    There were no obvious issues with audio sync.

    The music score for Synecdoche, New York is credited to Jon Brion. His beautiful score compliments the film perfectly well. A highlight is the featured song, I'm Just A Little Person, written by Jon Brion and Charlie Kaufman. The song is performed by Deanna Storey. Incidentally, Jon Brion also wrote the score for Kaufman's, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    This is basically a dialogue driven film, but the surround channels are used to brilliant effect on a few occasions. The echoes inside the large warehouse are bounced around the channels and sound fantastic. Check out these fine examples at 36:59 and 50:09.

    Apart from a couple of loud "booms" late in the film, the subwoofer was rarely needed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    

Menu

    The main menu features subtle animation, a sample of music from the film and is 16x9 enhanced.

    I need to highlight the fact that my review DVD of Synecdoche, New York opens with three film trailers before arriving at the main menu.

The Story of Caden Cotard (12:08)

    Philip Seymour Hoffman talks about his character, Caden Cotard. He also discusses working with Charlie Kaufman and his relationship with the mostly female cast.

Featurette - In & Around Symecdoche, New York (18:59)

    This is a "making-of" look at the production of the film. There are plenty of cast and crew interviews incorporated with behind-the-scenes footage. Of particular interest is Script Supervisor, Mary Cybulski's method and explanation of keeping track of the scenes inside the huge warehouse set.

Charlie Kaufman Animations: Jackal & Caden (2:17)

Charlie Kaufman Animations: Cow & Sheep (2:03)

    Both of these short animation pieces are seen in the film as children's cartoons on television.

Original Theatrical Trailer

    Synecdoche, New York (2:40)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is a R1 version of Synecdoche, New York which features the same extras as the R4, but with a couple of additions. The Region 1 features Infectious Diseases in Cattle: Bloggers' Roundtable (36:37) and  NFTS/Script Factory Masterclass with Charlie Kaufman (27:40). However, the Region 1 edition seems to be missing the descriptive narration option.

    Synecdoche, New York is also available in the US on region free Blu-ray. The Blu-ray disc contains exactly the same extras as the R1 DVD edition.

Summary

    Synecdoche, New York is a surreal tale of life, death, and theatre - from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.

    The video and audio transfers are both very good.

    The selection of extras is interesting and relevant.

    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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