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Caden Cotard’s Breakfast Table

by Ethan Tussey

by James Harvey-Davitt for IN MEDIA RESSynecdoche, New York presents an appropriately disorienting formal representation of its protagonist, Caden Cotards, subjective reality. A number of shifts occur from the films initial, quirky yet naturalistic early scenes, before reaching intensified levels of strangeness. From the outset, in a space of domesticity, there is a gradual movement towards chaos, attaching Cadens personal experience of temporal dislocation to a broader critique of life in contemporary America.
From the breakneck exposition of the film, to the narrative plotting and the dialogues between characters, everything happens absurdly quickly. Sometimes, things have happened without the people involved even knowing. Since Synecdoche is presented from Cadens perspective, and while only he perceives things as being too fast, he is distinguished from the uniformity of others. It is in this sense that we might view Cadens condition as representative of what Thomas Elsaesser termed a productive pathology: the upturning of affliction to asset through a hyper-sensitivity to changes in the environment (2009: 26). Patricia Pisters neuroimage also makes a connection between contemporary US cinemas interest in the dysfunctional brain and the mechanisms of neoliberal capitalism (Pisters, 2012). Synecdoche registers this dysfunctional/critical potential early on in the film through a complex mode of montage and sound editing. In doing so, a subversive formal approach to social commentary occurs, taking us from narration (being told about an event) to experience (encountering the event).
This is evident from the outset: the confusion and intensity of Cadens breakfast table is expressed through a heightening of speed in visual and sonic montage. The four audio-visual technologies the radio, newspaper, telephone, and television are involved in a supersonic interplay. The complexity of their appearance comes down to the composition of the editing, which in this case is sped up to exaggerate pace and foreground the ephemerality of Cadens and, thus, our own lived experience. In this way, this scene could be said to foreground the pervasive formation of a contemporary American culture of excess and consumption, making this a matter of temporality. On a quotidian level but also (as the familiar stage of bourgeois, bohemian suburbia so often suggests) on a far broader social and economic level, life is too fast to take. Without departing from the realms of classical fiction altogether, the intensity of Synecdoches speed presents a well-trodden cultural critique from a perspective as peculiar formally as it is narratively.

Caden Cotard’s Breakfast Table

by Ethan Tussey

by James Harvey-Davitt for IN MEDIA RESSynecdoche, New York presents an appropriately disorienting formal representation of its protagonist, Caden Cotards, subjective reality. A number of shifts occur from the films initial, quirky yet naturalistic early scenes, before reaching intensified levels of strangeness. From the outset, in a space of domesticity, there is a gradual movement towards chaos, attaching Cadens personal experience of temporal dislocation to a broader critique of life in contemporary America.
From the breakneck exposition of the film, to the narrative plotting and the dialogues between characters, everything happens absurdly quickly. Sometimes, things have happened without the people involved even knowing. Since Synecdoche is presented from Cadens perspective, and while only he perceives things as being too fast, he is distinguished from the uniformity of others. It is in this sense that we might view Cadens condition as representative of what Thomas Elsaesser termed a productive pathology: the upturning of affliction to asset through a hyper-sensitivity to changes in the environment (2009: 26). Patricia Pisters neuroimage also makes a connection between contemporary US cinemas interest in the dysfunctional brain and the mechanisms of neoliberal capitalism (Pisters, 2012). Synecdoche registers this dysfunctional/critical potential early on in the film through a complex mode of montage and sound editing. In doing so, a subversive formal approach to social commentary occurs, taking us from narration (being told about an event) to experience (encountering the event).
This is evident from the outset: the confusion and intensity of Cadens breakfast table is expressed through a heightening of speed in visual and sonic montage. The four audio-visual technologies the radio, newspaper, telephone, and television are involved in a supersonic interplay. The complexity of their appearance comes down to the composition of the editing, which in this case is sped up to exaggerate pace and foreground the ephemerality of Cadens and, thus, our own lived experience. In this way, this scene could be said to foreground the pervasive formation of a contemporary American culture of excess and consumption, making this a matter of temporality. On a quotidian level but also (as the familiar stage of bourgeois, bohemian suburbia so often suggests) on a far broader social and economic level, life is too fast to take. Without departing from the realms of classical fiction altogether, the intensity of Synecdoches speed presents a well-trodden cultural critique from a perspective as peculiar formally as it is narratively.

Speed and Breakfast

A clip from Synecdoche, New York

from Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Creator: Charlie Kaufman
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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