Synecdoche, New York is a fascinating, thought-provoking film. Re-reading what I wrote about other films written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) I see that I’ve compared his work to origami pieces, and I still think that’s apt. You can lose yourself in their multifarious layers and folds — and sometimes, when imprecise fingers and thumbs finish modeling the creature, the thing doesn’t really match what you saw on the instruction page. I wonder if Charlie Kaufman films are like that, too, born from screenplays so psychologically intricate and emotionally personal that the finished home his imaginings find on screen doesn’t quite match the blueprint. This film is very much of a piece with its predecessors, but somehow the tone is different. It’s more ceaselessly despairing, with little modulation of the overall grind.
The opening credits of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (yup, that’s how you spell it) suggest anything but a virtual reality thriller. Earthy textures emerge from the darkness again and again, sometimes overlayed with anatomical drawings that recall the opening titles of Cronenberg’s last great film, Dead Ringers (1987). Coupled with a characteristically somber theme from Howard Shore, it’s an efficient introduction to the ensuing yarn, which deals in organic, rather than silicon gadgetry.