Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eyegiene and Synecdoche, New York: The Eyes of Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze

When people ask me "what is eyegiene all about," I seem to always flail about with cinematic/literary/art references: "imagine Borges translated through Buñuel's camera; Pynchon as filmed by the Coen Brothers; Kieslowski painted by Remedios Varo," and so on.

Two artist who get it and live it in their projects are Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze--in films like Being John Malkovich, and soon, Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman and Jonze weave cinematic canvases masked as mirrors; or better, filmed mirrors that double as novels. Here's a taste from the new film--below the snippet is some footage from the film's Cannes debut earlier this year:

For those wrestling with the title of the film, it's named after the rhetorical part of speech, synecdoche (si NECK doe kee) that means "part for whole" as in "all 'hands' on deck" where 'hands' shorthands for sailors' hands or labor in general. It is the coolest of metonymies, even cooler than catachresis and the foundation of all poetry and art. Here's the OED, the Oxford English Dictionary, on "synecdoche."

More on this after the movie opens here stateside. As a quick aside, I love that Kaufman has named his film using a pun, where Synecdoche, NY proxies for the anticipated Schenectady, NY. At Cornell, back in the day, back in the high renaissance of critical theory, I used to make a joke in seminar, a horrible pun, really, where I would say Chaka Khan in lieu of French psychoanalytic hero Jacques Lacan. Kaufman's done me one better!

Chaka Khan fans will dig this flashback to her days with Rufus--1974 at a Bob Hope hosted [!] event, no less!

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