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Like an IQ test with a strict time limit, Synechdoche, NewYork displaces every valence electron from out of your brain. To keep pace with it in first viewing, you need all that mental energy and more. Charlie Kaufman had already written films like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind before directing this one. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a theater director called Caden Cotard. But the trick is, he plays not just one person, and Caden Cotard is not played by just one person. To further crash this film out in the linearity graph, so are many other characters played by many others and many others play many others. In some way, the dictionary suggests, this might be the key to the meaning of the word, Synechdoche.

It is futile to review this film as to what it is about. A more important review would be of what it takes to see (or sit through) it. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, which meant the problem of “sitting through” never bothered. From some of the opinions expressed in various websites, I take it that it was a serious problem for many. Maybe they had popcorn in one hand. It will never work: a combination of popcorn and this film. It is also not a candidate for serious art-house film study, I’d think. At best, like Sherlock Holmes solving his next case, you need to be able to deduce and be absolutely engrossed. There might be clues here and clues there, but unlike Sherlock, be aware that you could be on a completely different case with each clue. Far from an action film it may be, but Syncechdoche is frenetic. The “twists and turns” here are not in the narrative as Kaufman plays with time and imagination.
Another key to my enjoying the movie could have been the long efforts I put in to read My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk’s famous novel. After months of attempts, I am still only 10% through it. It is not the most straightforward book, but it isn’t a cryptic crossword either. For some reason, I simply couldn’t get through it in a normal way. And soon after one such attempted read, I switched to Synechdoche and it felt like a more solvable mystery. So maybe you want to try reading Glass Bead Game before watching to just warm yourself up.
The ultimate satisfaction of Synechdoche for the viewer would possibly be the different outcomes of reaction after each viewing. A second review would be so much different to the first or the third. That could be the outstanding quality of this film.