Synecdoche Trims?

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.”

  • T. S. Idiot

    I have no complaints about the lengths of good films. There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Assassination of Jesse James could have gone on even longer. But when nothing interesting is going on visually or thematically, much shorter movies seem twice their lengths: Ocean’s Thirteen, Smokin’ Aces, Shoot ‘Em Up, Year of the Dog, Youth without Youth, Cassandra’s Dream, etc.
    I just re-watched Shampoo, which breezes by at 109 minutes, and realized that if it was remade it would probably be a half hour longer.

  • Breedlove

    Youth Without Youth is a masterpiece.
    The best example of the above point, to me, is on the stage, where a three and a half hour play as good as August: Osage County felt like it was about 20 minutes long. And if you’re stuck in some boring piece of crap it feels like you’re in there for nine hours (Rock ‘n Roll, anyone?)

  • swordandpen

    I’d like to hear more people complain the lengths of Michael Bay’s movies. As if his stories need 2 1/2 hours to be told.

  • vulgar71

    As ol’ Roger Ebert says:
    “No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.”
    (Or something like that.)

  • Luke Y. Thompson

    Seems funny to complain about length the week that a sitcom stretched out for two and a half hours is tops at the box office.

  • T. S. Idiot

    Rock ‘n’ Roll is a masterpiece, the best new play I’ve seen in 30 yrs of going to Broadway.

  • /3rtfu11

    How is four minutes over two hours too long?
    I’d rather watch Kaufman’s three hour version than some 90 minute bull shit edit for people who wouldn’t like the movie no matter how you cut it.

  • LYT

    Seems funny to complain about length the week that a sitcom stretched out for two and a half hours is tops at the box office.

  • YND

    Ditto to T.S. Idiot — I thought ROCK ‘N’ ROLL was marvelous. Hugely pleased to see Rufus Sewell and Sinead Cusack (as well as the play itself) get some Tony loving.
    That said, I’m super envious of anyone in a position to see AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.

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