Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Synecdochically Speaking

A couple weeks ago, I sat through the new Charlie Kaufman film "Synecdoche, New York." (Isn't saying "film" instead of "movie" delightfully pretentious? You know, similar to using a phrase like "delightfully pretentious"...)

So, how was the FILM, you ask? Let's just say Entertainment Weekly gave it a D+, and I'm hard-pressed to disagree. It's very, very bizarre and, I thought, way too convoluted and silly to be entertaining. Also, the last 45 minutes or so is incredibly dull.

In the novel Infinite Jest, Hal's late father Jim is an auteur known for his avant-garde and bizarre films, similar to Kaufman. There's actually a 20-page footnote that catalogues his filmography, including five versions of Infinite Jest - the fifth version of which is Jim's last film, and presumably what drove him insane enough to kill himself. It's also the film the Quebecois terrorists are looking for because (as mentioned in a previous post) it's so entertaining that anyone who watches is rendered virtually lobotomized, wanting to do nothing but watch the film over and over. Some other titles of Jim's films: The American Century as Seen Through a Brick, Dial C for Concupiscence, Blood Sister: One Tough Nun (which is a gory revenge tale taking place in a convent), and Fun with Teeth.

Jim is also known for inventing a new genre known as Found Drama. One example of Found Drama is Jim's film titled The Joke. The "film" shows an audience filing into a movie theater and settling in to watch a flick. The audience watches itself watch itself, becoming increasingly "self-conscious and uncomfortable and hostile" as the movie-goers realize that they are the actual movie. And then they leave. This film was credited in Jim's filmography as his first "truly controversial film."

So anyway, in a section I read this week (892 pages in, 82.7% of the novel), DFW is describing one of Jim's films, and uses the phrase "camera as audience-synecdoche." Clearly, that's not a word you come across too often, so seeing Kaufman's film and then reading it in as a description of another bizarre, mind-bending film (Jim's) within a few days of each other is quite a fun little coincidence.


JB said...

Calling a movie "a film" may seem pretentious, however, the pretension factor can really be upped by referring to a movie as "a picture" which is quite popular in certain circles out here these days...

Choad said...

Ha - good point. How about "motion picture"? Would that just make your head explode?