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Interview: Charlie Kaufman

Straight poop
By PETER KEOUGH  |  November 4, 2008

081107_kaufman_main

Word play: Doomsday is just a state of mind in Synecdoche, New York. By Peter Keough.
People either love or hate Charlie Kaufman. When he appeared a few weeks ago at the Harvard Square Theatre to present Synecdoche, New York, the crowd loved him. Maybe because they felt they knew him, or even were him — and who's to say they weren't? Those who praise his films and those who condemn them agree that they're self-reflective to the point of solipsism. Synecdoche, the first feature he's directed (his screenplays include Adaptation and Being John Malkovich), won't change any minds. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets a MacArthur fellowship to put on a play and then spends the rest of his life trying to re-create his life in New York City as a stage production, an endeavor that involves re-creating his re-creating of his life as a stage production, and so on.

"I'll be here to answer questions after the screening," Kaufman told the crowd before the film started. "If anyone is here." He needn't have worried.

Althought some audience members got testy when you didn't interpret the movie for them, basically they worshipped you.
The worshipping part, I don't know what it means, exactly. The thing that the guy said at the end last night [something to the effect that Kaufman was God] — it was nice. Especially because I was really depressed last night, and I was not looking forward to doing that thing. It's hard for me to be traveling by myself, doing this for a month, and I'm exhausted. The reaction to the movie has been — I never know what people will say, whether they will be angry with me or if they'll be responsive like that guy.

Sometimes it's the same person.
No, that hasn't happened, not that I've been aware of. I've heard that people can sometimes hate the movie and then can't get it out of their head. I've heard people say that, or they see it again, these are the critics who have seen it at festivals, and then they start to feel something about it that they didn't before.

There's a lot to take in just with the set design. First of all, I want to say that that Caden really knew how to budget a $100,000 grant.
I read this one review where this guy hated the movie and he said — and it was actually addressed to me, which I shouldn't even acknowledge because it's what he wants — "By the way, Charlie," he writes, "I've known people who have won MacArthur grants, and Caden, based on his work, could never win one. This is an impossible production that he's mounting, and you also can't build a full-size replica of New York City in a warehouse." Yes, I know that.

This was on the Internet that you read this?
Yeah. Everything's on the Internet. That's where I read things. I shouldn't read these things, but I do.

Has anyone brought up the "M" word with regards to the women in the movie?
The "M" word?

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Related: Word play, Ol' Dirty's dirty side, Lows and highs, More more >
  Topics: Features , New York, Entertainment, Performing Arts,  More more >
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