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Confessions of a Delicious Mind

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Abbot Gensler/Sony Pictures Classics

Not for the fainthearted, the cinema of Charlie Kaufman challenges audiences to consider the multiple cerebral layers that factor into even the most mundane everyday moments, and to process narratives in entirely unexpected fashions. “Synecdoche, New York” – the first movie he’s both written and directed – adheres to that overarching motif, even if it’s otherwise unlike anything anyone’s ever seen.

The story follows Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – a hypochondriac theater director – as he works on his masterpiece while coping with a bevy of insecurities and abandonment issues. Of course, any one sentence description can’t do justice to the colliding temporalities, surrealist sequences and metaphoric imagery the filmmaker puts into the project. Even those working on the production needed assistance to fully parse the complicated world Mr. Kaufman created.

“It was very complicated conceptually,” Mr. Kaufman said. “For people working on the movie, we needed special graphs and charts and stuff to know where we were at different points.”

Within the morass of details, Mr. Hoffman kept things simple. He approached Caden precisely as he would any character: by honing in on the screenplay’s vivid evocation of the small, poignant human moments scattered throughout the psychological terrain. That doesn’t mean he didn’t find the project taxing, in a different way.

“It’s a very emotional movie. Life’s an emotional thing; and in this, you really get the peaks and valleys of a man’s life in a way,” he said. “[In any film] there’s always those three or four scenes, those days you know are going to be really tough. This film, like every other day, I knew I’d be doing a scene that was going to be about losing my wife, or losing my daughter, or failing at this, or being rejected, or trying to fall in love – that he was really covering the whole gamut of experience.”

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