The Hollywood Reporter‘s Gregg Goldstein, known for his notepad-and-shoe- leather scoops, has written an interesting analysis piece about Charlie Kaufman‘s Synecdoche, New York. It sounds a little bit like an in-house Sidney Kimmel Entertainment memo, as it includes no reporting or even quotes.
The title of Goldstein’s piece is “Synecdoche could improve with edit”; the subhead is “Hypnotic film may undergo further cuts.” The Hollywood Elsewhere response: “No shit?”
Potential distributors eyeballing Synecdoche, New York in Cannes “were concerned about its length, especially the fragmented, inscrutable, increasingly fast-paced segments near its conclusion,” Goldstein writes. “In fact, those sequences could potentially be slotted any number of ways, replaced with cut scenes or even excised without affecting the film’s overall impact. A narrative thread doesn’t exist after a certain point in the movie, anyway.”
This is the sharpest point made in the piece. A meditative, dream-like quality does eventually overtake the film, becoming more psychological or analytical, and certainly less of a traditional-type “story.” It is, finally, what it is. And it seems on some level a little unkind to try and shoehorn a movie like Synecdoche, New York into a linear narrative form. You could, I suppose, shorten it somewhat — down from 124 minutes to 105 or 110 minutes.
“Kaufman explained that after the film was cut to three hours, there was more than one version he assembled with different scenes to whittle it to its 124-minute length,” Goldstein continues. “And despite his reputation for an uncompromising vision, he said he’d be amenable to further editing depending on which distributor picks up the film for North America.
“For despite his artistic goals, commercial dictates can’t be ignored. Producer Sidney Kimmel Entertainment (which has undergone a reorganization after recent layoffs) needs to justify the film’s budget, said to be not far above $20 million but rumored to have cost more.
Kimmel, along with fellow producers and longtime Kaufman collaborators Anthony Bregman and (originally slated director) Spike Jonze, deserve kudos for shepherding this uncompromising vision to life. But it likely will pose a unique marketing challenge, even for the pit bull tenacity of Bingham Ray, who handles marketing for SKE films.
“Any feature that dares to run more than two hours risks provoking reflexive groans from audiences and even most critics. Even if the content justifies it — as it did in spades in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 158-minute masterpiece There Will Be Blood — a film’s length has become all too important an issue among audiences with shrinking attention spans.
“In the case of Synecdoche however, less might ultimately be more since it plays like an intense and inscrutable dream. Kaufman could further distill its best scenes to evoke the experience he wants to convey, as if downloading the film from his own idiosyncratic brain. And at some point, on DVD or in an art house run down the road, he could present one of his three- or four-hour cuts, giving an even more personal view into his fascinating mind.”