Perhaps the most divisive film of the year among serious and intelligent movie-lovers, here is a film about themes no less lofty than: the meaning of life; the meaning of art; the tangled relationship between the two, and the point at which those two entities become indistinguishable from each other. Also, the fear of death and its relation to the aforementioned themes. Also, narcissism and particularly how it afflicts the artist and the tangled relationship between it and every other word in this description so far.
To say the movie operates in the realm of circular logic is to assume that the film has a logic and a basic understanding of shapes, as they relate to logic. More tangled relationships. Have I made you want to see this movie yet? If the answer is yes, then chances are you will not only enjoy it, but you will get something out of it. If the answer is no, then this simply may not be your cup of tea. But either way, what this movie should not be confused with or mischaracterized as is a bad movie. It is not. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his second film on my top ten list. I didn’t plan it, and in many ways, it doesn’t seem like he’s on here twice because he so completely disappears into his roles. PSH (as his friends call him) certainly has his actor’s tricks, and he loves to play “Intense…Intense-ER!!” sometimes, but he is also one of the best working actors today. Here, he is a man who creates a play about his own life and eventually casts actors to play himself, and then actors to play actors playing himself. The film has been in rehearsal for over 20 years. The warehouse in which this production is to take place acquires a second warehouse inside the first warehouse in order to play the first warehouse in the play. There is a house which is perpetually on fire. It is not explained. Things get weirder, too, but we’ll leave that for you to see for yourself. This film is not simply absurd, it is absurdist. It is a film that would make Samuel Becket scratch his head. But at the same time, I disagree with the notion that the movie is toying with us, that it is looking down on us or mocking us. It doesn’t trick us or deceive us or manipulate us. Seeing the movie again, I felt even more that there is a sincerity amid the confusion; that Kaufman is attempting to make an honest movie about all the dishonesties we engage in on a daily basis. You are not a bad person if you do not like the movie. But neither should you blame the movie if you should find out it doesn’t like you either.