a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Charlie Kaufman News

Today the L.A. Times started a new weekly feature, written by Jay A. Fernandez, called "Scriptland", which is going to be about the "work and professional lives of screenwriters".

Could be interesting, though it's probably a good thing that he's not interested in the private lives of screenwriters; I don't think there are many screenwriters outside of Joe Eszterhas who make for very good tabloid fodder.

This week's column is largely concerned with notable scripts that Fernandez has been reading, including the new Charlie Kaufman script "Synecdoche, New York", which is apparently very hush-hush, and which Fernandez only provides minimal details about.

But according to Fernandez, it is great, a "wrenching, searching, metaphysical epic... about death and sex and the vomit-, poop-, urine- and blood-smeared mess that life becomes physiologically, emotionally and spiritually. It reliably contains Kaufman's wondrous visual inventions, complicated characters, idiosyncratic conversations and delightful plot designs, but its collective impact will kick the wind out of you".

Fernandez was so blown away by the read that he goes on to write "If this film gets made in any way that resembles what's on the page... Synecdoche will make Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine look like instructional industrial films. No one has ever written a screenplay like this. It's questionable whether cinema is even capable of handling the thematic, tonal and narrative weight of a story this ambitious."

Okay. Crap. Now I want to read it, now. Anyone who wants to sneak me a copy, feel free.

Because Spike Jonze is off in Australia directing "Where The Wild Things Are", "Synecdoche, New York" will be directed this spring by Kaufman himself. According to imdb, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Michelle Williams have been cast, though the movie is still casting.

The great thing about Charlie Kaufman is that though Hollywood likely (sadly) has no interest in ever making a ton of Kaufmanesque movies, it's great that he is out there, doing fresh and inventive things and inspiring us by showing that it's not always about staying inside the lines, even in Hollywood.

And whenever an imaginative film comes out, like "Stranger Than Fiction", everyone assumes that Kaufman wrote it, even though he had nothing to do with it.

So there's something out there to look forward to, though it's hard to imagine that it'll hit theaters before late 2007 at the earliest.


At 11:43 AM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

Isn't it like that everything that is written very great makes everybody in Hollywood listen and talk about it? Even if it's something they don't necessarily want to produce. Until a star is interested in that project and willing to do it.

Just my opinion. I've read that Butterfly Effect and Donnie Darko were around in talks a lot for years in the biz until Kutcher or Barrymore wanted to do it.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

Sounds great, love Kaufman (except Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Human Nature) (wait, are those like 40% of the movies he's had produced?) but I hate the title.

Not to be puerile, but anything that looks like it might rhyme with "douche" is a bad title.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I have no doubt that a new script from Charlie Kaufman will be great, but can it really be that much better Eternal Sunshine? I think Michel Gondry took that nearly perfect script and turned it into an even better, very intelligent flick, so the bar is indeed very high

At 5:38 PM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

I want to read it.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger mernitman said...

gimme gimmie gimme gimme gimme whoa gimme my copy now!!!

At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

honestly, the article didn't say much.

- Allen

At 3:42 AM, Anonymous hotzappa11 said...

I found this, not sure it helps:,1,260163.story?coll=la-headlines-entnews&ctrack=1&cset=true

At 6:26 AM, Blogger taZ said...

I mean Charlie goes from weird to weirder, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

So I wouldn't recommend you get to excited, cause when you finish reading, if you ever get a chance to read it, you might not understand anything at all. Just a Charlie-mix.

Ok, he's a good writer, smart and all, and I really love several of his movies. It just feels that we somehow must love his movies. I mean they might not make any sense and we think that we are the stupid ones.

Like the naked-king story where everyone thought they were stupid for thinking the king was naked when he really was. If you know what I mean.

Although I don't know the movie so I might be totally wrong. I'm just saying.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the script this past weekend.

There's no title page, it's just page 1, and at the top it says, hand-written, 'Schenectady, New York by Charlie Kaufman', not 'Synecdoche, New York'.

And the guy I got it from says he saw the same handwriting on the 'Eternal Sunshine' script.

So it's either called 'Synecdoche, New York' or 'Schenectady, New York'.

Anyway, the script is mostly unfollowable, funny in parts, but incoherent in its structure and storytelling. Something about this guy, CADEN (40, to be played by Phil Hoffman), married with a 4-year-old daughter. He's a theater director in Schenectady, goes to marriage counseling with his wife. She leaves him and moves to Berlin with the daughter. Caden is suffering some mysterious disease, the doctors don't know what it is.

He wins a MacArthur grant and (I think) he pays to put on some sort of experimental theater piece in which he hires a bunch of actors and sets them up in a giant warehouse space with a bunch of different sets. Including an actor to play him, 'Caden the director'. Then, somehow the play takes on a life of its own, or it reflects Caden's life back to him...? I couldn't tell.

Then he somehow enters the play itself, and within it he finds a 'set' depicting the warehouse set he built.

Then he enters a set within a set within a set. This part reminded me of the sequence in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH where they're running through Malkovich's subconscious.

Outside the world has fallen into some sort of an apocalypse (either real or imagined, it's not clear) where people are running around, insane and pooping in the streets.

I don't know, man, I mean, it's not like I'm going to skip the movie. Of course I'll go see it. I can appreciate films I don't completely understand, but this, this is just so beyond. But not in a good way. It's 152 pages long, and it's a real struggle just to make sense of it--not thematically or metaphysically or morally--I mean you can't follow it. Like he doesn't bother to indicate what's going on, he just sorta pukes it out and you have to mop it up yourself if you want to take anything away from it. Which makes for great cinema if it's handled correctly (ADAPTATION).

But here, it's more of a 'FU, I'm a genius, so here's my movie, now get to work tryin' to figure it out, bitch.'

I'm glad I didn't have to cover it. I'm sure I would have had to read it twice. I think in my comments I would have said the writer mistakes confusion for depth.

If any of you read it, weigh in here and tell us what you think.

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous rockstar sheepfarm said...

I just read it and thought it was pretty funny...definitely not the greatest script of all time though. but damn good. some very good quotes.

basically it's like humanity puked all over the 152 pages.


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