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November 14th, 2008 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Friday Movie Roundup: Eternal Neuorsis of Charlie Kaufman's Mind

According to The New York Times recent “Holiday Movies” calendar, 12 films are scheduled to open in New York City today. In contrast, just two new films are set play in a Cincinnati movie house: Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York and the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace.

A quick scan of the NYC dozen includes at least seven releases that will likely never have a conventional theatrical run here.

But does anyone care?

While local film buffs would no doubt revel in the opportunity to catch French auteur Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale — a favorite of mine from the Toronto Film Festival that will never screen here due the Esquire/Mariemont’s policy to bypass IFC Films’ offerings — the truth is that such esoteric art-house fare has a pretty limited audience in a market like Cincinnati.

Want proof? Even when an undeniably vital film does make its way to our creatively parched environs, it usually doesn’t stay for long. A current example is Trouble the Water — the Sundance-approved, critically lauded documentary about a streetwise couple trying to survive Hurricane Katrina closed yesterday after just a one-week run at The Esquire. Its unfortunate fate is becoming the norm in today’s crowded, highly competitive movie environment — art houses just can’t afford to wait the necessary time smaller, marketing-challenged films need to reach a meaningful audience.

Which brings us back to Kaufman’s debut as a director. It’s a wonder something as imaginative, brazenly self-reflexive and mind-fuckingly delicious as Synecdoche, New York even exists, let alone actually makes it to a local movie house. (Read Steven Rosen’s review here.)

Of course, it helps to have a mondo talent like Philip Seymour Hoffman at the center of your film. And it doesn’t hurt to have a female cast that includes Hope Davis, Catherine Keener, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Diane Wiest and Michelle Williams.

Love it or loathe it, Synecdoche, New York is sure to yield a strong response. Now let’s see if we can keep it in a local theater longer than a week.

Opening films:

QUANTUM OF SOLACE -- Last time we saw James Bond, he was grieving the death of his beloved Vesper Lynd. In Quantum of Solace, which is much more of a bookend than a sequel to Casino Royale, the world’s most famous super-spy returns and is looking to pay back those responsible — including a mysterious, previously unknown organization with major geo-political clout named Quantum and led, in part, by Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Bond, again played with an engaging mix of ferocity and charm by Daniel Craig, is relentless in his pursuit of the truth and, he argues, his job, leaving an ever-escalating body count in his wake until his boss and mother figure, M (Judi Dench), must call him off. Of course, Bond won’t be deterred, and so he finds both MI6 and the CIA after him. Bond's only allies are Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), fellow agent Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) and the beautiful Camille (Olga Kurylenko) — two of whom end up dead, one in an oil-covered salute to Pussy Galore’s notorious end in Goldfinger. Director Marc Forster, known primarily as the helmer of artier fare like Monster’s Ball, deepens Bond’s emotional complexity but is most triumphant in his breathtaking action sequences that are arguably some of the best orchestrated and edited ever put on film. Yet, despite his masterful work and the movie’s impossible high-fun factor, Forster can’t make up for the story’s inherent shortcomings, evident in the fact that Quantum is an hour shorter than Royale. -- Cole Haddon (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B

SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK — Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is so intriguing, challenging and visually arresting that its repetitious stretches, overreaching and vaguely maudlin ending aren’t that bothersome. (Read full-length review here.) — Steven Rosen (Rated R.)
Grade: B

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