Jon McAuliffe sent along an academic paper he wrote a few years ago, "Apart For The Whole: A Look At Subjectivity In The Film, Synecdoche, NY" and we both think some of you might dig it. Says Jon: "It's kind of a structural/psychoanalytic/gender studies take on the film. Just a bit of fun while working on a MFA."
Caden Cotard seems betrayed by his body from the very outset of the Charlie Kaufman film, Synecdoche, NY. The quick read, one that easily carries through the entire film, is that Caden’s pervasive disintegration is related to death. It seems significant, after all, that he shares his name with a syndrome marked by a person’s belief that they are already dead, or undergoing the process of decay. And perhaps this is the reading that the writer/director wanted us to take: that Caden is already at the instance of his death from the very beginning, balancing in the twilight moment after consciousness fades, but before his unconscious withers away entirely along with his body. One could imagine this to be the case, considering that the film opens with the ringing of Caden’s alarm clock at 7:44, and that near the very end of the film, the disembodied voice of Millicent, a woman who has become Caden’s directorial replacement, announces the time as 7:45, just before telling Caden, “now you are…gone.” But is this the only way we could understand Caden’s body trouble / his life trouble? With all of the powerful implications of that reading aside, I would like instead to consider Caden’s deterioration, and the mirrored deterioration of Caden’s “world,” as a brutal investigation of (male?) subjectivity in an instance of interpolative disintegration; or, more simply put, as an erosion of the self.