Is Synecdoche New York an Unintentional Rip Off of Fellini's 8½?

May 3, 2009

8 1/2 and Synecdoche New York

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts." -William Shakespeare, from As You Like It.

While it is often cliché to quote Shakespeare, no words ring more true when attempting to analytically examine two films that share more than just themes and narrative elements: Frederico Fellini's 1963 classic and Charlie Kaufman's 2008 enigmatic film Synecdoche, New York. Aren't all men merely playing out the destiny given to them, taking cues and direction while slowly losing grip on one's own life?

Men simply create an artificial dialogue, feigning love and hate, all the while waiting for the final curtain call. It is with this idea in mind that Fellini crafted a work that transcends the normal conventions of film with a narrative that speaks volumes about the bounds of conventional morality, the burden of Catholic guilt, and the pressures of creating something real and beautiful on a commission. Kaufman's film, Synecdoche, New York borrows heavily from , particularly with regard to its treatment of life's struggles in relation to love and happiness. So much so, that its themes provide further insight into Fellini's original work. Which themes are best portrayed in each film? Was Synecdoche simply a literal re-imagining of ? Pardon the inevitable philosophy and psychoanalysis, but stick with me. I promise it'll be worth it.

Synecdoche, New York PosterSynecdoche, New York is Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, whose previous screenwriting credits include similarily mind bending pieces such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich. The film begins with the protagonist, Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), earning a MacArthur Genius Grant after directing an adaptation of Death of a Salesman with young actors. He then decides to use the funds to put on a play that tells the truth; art that tells people something about themselves. This play turns out to be a reconstruction and literal incarnation of New York City, replete with actors playing every occupant of the city reenacting the everyday actions that such residents would commit. This meta-referential -- or "making a movie about making a movie" -- method of conveying emotions and themes, as well as underlining issues with the creative process, is also utilized in .

Fellini's is often cited as one of the most influential works in the history of cinema, principally due to its unique narrative which is intermittently joined by dramatic dream sequences which help to underscore the subtle themes that persist throughout the film. Many describe the film as autobiographic, as Fellini worked on the it primarily when wrought with "writer's block." follows Italian director Guido Anselimi (played by Marcello Mastroianni) as he attempts to create his next highly anticipated film, all the while facing pressures from his needy producer and estranged wife. However, while attempting to create his next work of art, Guido finds himself losing all interest in his own work and his struggling marriage. Instead of working diligently as he should on the film, he becomes lost in a stream of memories and dreams that contribute to the disjointed feel of the film.

These two films both attempt to portray a broad set of themes, something often reserved for literature rather than film, and convey it through a form that is relatively unique. One of the most prevalent themes throughout both films is the burden of the creative process. Creating something beautiful is a labor intensive process, often wrought with difficulty and strife. Both Guido and Caden struggle as each works to create something that speaks truth. Caden's work is something grand and massive, a play that is literally a life size recreation of New York, while Caden's wife, Adele, is a painter whose work is miniscule at best. At the beginning of the film, her paintings are simply smaller than average and still visible to the naked eye. However, when Caden visits her studio later in the film, her art has grown so small that viewers need a magnifying glass in order to appreciate the miniature pieces of art. As Caden's play is developing, the scope continues to grow as the ebb and flow of time continues. As the re-creation falls deeper and deeper into insanity, there must be an actor to play Caden and an actor to play the actor portraying Caden and so on. However, this leads our makeshift hero into a downward spiral which results in the inevitable failure of the production simply because it can never be truly completed. The final scene of Synecdoche follows Caden as he delves deeper into his own art, where he walks into the warehouse, in the warehouse, in the warehouse, passing the dark and bleak landscape that all men witness as they approach their death.

Parallel to Kaufman's commentary on the creative process, Guido falls into a situation in similar to Caden's. Guido is facing an enormous amount of pressure to start making his movie. While he spends time at the resort, he is forced to begin casting and building sets despite his lack of any real plan. Several times throughout the film, Guido's producer chastises him for keeping everyone in the dark while the actors beg for knowledge regarding the characters that they'll be playing. However, Guido doesn't have any of this knowledge. He realizes that he doesn't know anything about what he wants to create, and finds himself slowly coming to terms with the fact that he may never find true happiness in his work. The only real knowledge he possesses is the desire to create something true. Something with no lies whatsoever. The opening scene of conveys this feeling of suffocation when Guido finds himself dreaming of being trapped inside of a car. As the claustrophobia and asphyxiation set in, Guido frees himself and flies away free of these worries only to find himself being pulled back to the reality of earth.

Above all, each of the two characters in both films exhibit a high degree of self-centrism and is nearly blind to every other character. Though anyone can exhibit some degree of selfishness, these characters are unlike most seen in cinema. Caden is extremely selfish, and the viewer is subjected to the world through his eyes and his eyes only. Sammy, the actor playing Caden, reveals a new perspective on the protagonist as he is standing on the ledge about kill himself. He states that Caden never looks at anybody but himself, and the viewer suddenly comes to the realization that we've only been seeing this twisted version of reality through the protagonist's eyes. Though the protagonist of is equally as selfish, his actions only result in material loss. Guido traps an entire film cast and crew at an Italian spa, deluding them into thinking that they are creating the next big hit. Instead, he ends up denying them a realization of their desires because of his own self indulgent nature.

8 1/2 PosterBoth films provide startling revelations about guilt and sexual repression, particularly in Fellini's work. Guido is an Italian and was therefore raised as a devout Catholic. In one of the most prolific sequences in the entire film, Guido recalls a memory that is the turning point for his displaced guilt due to the strains of Catholicism. This recollection shows Guido as a child, who joins his friends on a journey to see a local prostitute dance for them. The gang of children venture out to the beach and watch in amazement as a disturbingly ugly woman dances. To their dismay, the priests find them gazing at a woman's flesh and carry the young criminals back to face judgment for their transgressions. The cardinal chastises the young Guido, asking if he realized that his action was a sin. Guido responds with a resounding, "No!" Despite his confession and admittance of his guilt, Guido returns to the beach seeking the whore again. At this point, Guido doesn't find pleasure in the act of her dancing, but instead finds pleasure in the guilt of a sin. The most accurate summation of this feeling is found in Stendhal's novel The Red and the Black, where an Italian woman eats a piece of chocolate and responds, "Ah! If only this were a sin!" The woman no longer finds joy in the actual act, but her own superego realizes it likes to punish her ego who in turn realizes it loves to be punished. I told you that mentioning Freud would be inevitable… The results of this sexual repression appears later in his life, when Guido fantasizes about the many women of his life in a massive orgy of love and sin. It only becomes a real issue when these images begin to dominate his thoughts. Guido continually violates the standards of his own morality, and finds himself better enjoying the guilt of transgression more than the happiness brought about by compliance. After all, he is nothing more than an incurable romantic.

And what of Caden's sexual inadequacies? One of the most obvious revelations about Caden's love life is made apparent during the several scenes in the film which feature Caden having sex with various women. The viewer finds that Caden cannot make love without the side effect of crying. He found himself unable to cheat on his wife with Hazel, the red-haired love interest played by Samantha Morton, without sobbing which effectively kills the moment between them. Even later in the film, Caden is presented with another opportunity for love and cannot do so without weeping. His inability to find real love is exemplified at the end of the film, where he finally writes for himself one happy moment in which he finally finds love with Hazel. When looking back on the two films, it's almost disgraceful at how lackluster Synecdoche portrays such a critical theme. Fellini manages to build a character who is so self involved in his own sexual fantasies, yet Kaufman dances around the issue in an attempt to convey his own lost and vague point.

The two films are incredibly similar and are near synonymous at times when referring to their themes and unique tones. Both are incredibly disjointed and symbolic, but do not squander such attributes at every opportunity. Instead, each film provides tremendous insight into the consciousness of each protagonist. On one end, Fellini creates Guido -- a self indulgent filmmaker who finds himself lost in a furor of pressure, guilt, and general insanity. Kaufman takes inspiration from Fellini and provides viewers with a character who is little more than a hypochondriac that is selfish beyond all bounds of the imagination. These two protagonists are unlike any other, as they find themselves as merely players in a world they attempt to mold. Each character, though unique in his own way, gives viewers a distinct opportunity to discover something new and real about life. Few films can produce characters so ripe for Freudian analysis due to their unwieldy Nietzchean tendencies, while fitting so well into a novel by Kafka or Stendhal.

At this point, you're probably wondering if I believe that one film advances its themes better than the other. Even if you aren't wondering, I intend to tell you anyway. Right off the bat, Fellini has the advantage of having made much earlier and gets points for innovation. Kaufman, on the other hand, has to deal with the burdens of modern cinema, specifically with audiences having severe attention deficits. The capability of modern audiences to think during movies has gradually declined since the 1960's, and while unfortunate, is the reality that many filmmakers have to cope with.

Synecdoche is largely a product of one real man's (Kaufman) attempt to create a piece of art that gives an answer to everything. However, when you reach far and miss, you still are left with nothing. Kaufman's attempt to create something so bloated comes up just short, though you have to give it some real credit for what it does achieve in the end, which is an interesting glimpse at this unique character's distorted view on life. On the other end of the spectrum, strives to bring up theme after theme, elaborating and conveying each effectively through memories and dream sequences. No stone is left unturned and no loose ends are left for Fellini to tie up. Even the final sequence where Guido is conducting his own funeral is a brilliant display of one man's final success.

On the reels, Synecdoche can still call itself an original work, but only just barely as it borrows so heavily from Fellini's classic with regard to its themes and protagonist. If only Kaufman had improved greatly upon the original instead of making marginal gains without giving up coherence and structure, maybe Synecdoche would've been a bit more unique. Instead of falling into the overly self indulgent labyrinth that Synecdoche does, Fellini instead has created a piece of art that manages to turn a selfish man's life into a beautiful painting that audiences can still appreciate decades later. If you've seen both, do you agree or not?

Author's Addendum: However, a hermeneutic critique of anything is obstructed by our own subjectivity. My insight will surely differ from yours. Each person can take something unique from the film. That's one thing that makes these two films so great. To clear the air, I absolutely loved both films. I do not hate Synecdoche by any means. In fact, it was one of my favorite films of last year. However, I do believe that it shares a great deal of thematic elements with Fellini's work. In regards to these similarities, I believe that more effectively communicates them than Kaufman's piece. In the end, Kaufman's film gets lost within itself in a confused, yet still fantastically so, mess.

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Great comparison and interesting critique, especially for this site. Now, I have not seen Synecdoche, New York, so maybe I shouldn't comment. However, the title of this article and the final paragraph seem to argue something that the rest of the article does not prove. S,NY apparently has quite a different premise and plot than 8 1/2. They may explore many of the same themes, but it is all the little details and individual scenes which most viewers remember. Building a giant model of New York is quite different than making a movie, and Caden doesn't appear to spend all his time having daydreams and flashbacks. Since they each have such different and imaginative premises with many creative episodes that do not directly copy each other, it seems odd to claim that one is a rip-off of the other. Following similar themes is not plagiarism. Following the same themes with markedly similar scenes, set pieces, and/or dialogue is.

scm1000 on May 3, 2009


I don't think Kaufman is trying to give an answer to everything. It seems more as if he's trying, sometimes forcefully, to get people to notice the immensity of life. To notice and question it all. To wit: "Time stopped as it is want to do when present, past and future collide -- when one's existence ceases to be measured in days, hours and minutes, but instead in the immeasurable quantity of life events."

Fuelbot on May 3, 2009


Not to throw stones, but Will seems to be jumping through hoops here to justify a theory that makes little sense, as Kaufman claims he hadn't seen 8 1/2 prior to making Synecdoche; even disregarding such a glaring red light, the article seems to fault Kaufman for working with the very same themes Fellini was. While it's perfectly reasonable to prefer one film's handling of these themes to the other's, many of the arguments raised here just seem to point to Will not really getting what Kaufman was going for. Yes, Synecdoche is ripe for comparison with Fellini's masterpiece (however unintentionally), but claiming one simply must be ripping off the other without really giving much in the way of evidence to support such a bold claim is just callous and reads like an angry viewer bitching about the fact that Kaufman's film flew so far over his head. My read, anyway.

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


HMMMM...every film has been informed by those that come before it. Filmmaking has been a recurrent themes in many films, and even in previous Kaufman's previous "Adaptation". To tell a human story, about ego, morality, about the artist is an old convention but it's a very important one. Also, most films are in a way, slightly autobiographical, especially Kaufman. An artist's relationship to the world and their work is the most important thing, I think, to an artists life. What does your art and life really mean? Is there a real difference in the end? I personally don't see it. I can see the similarities between the two films, but I don't feel like Syn is a rip off at all.

LINKFX on May 3, 2009


Yeah it's not. But nice try.

Itri on May 3, 2009


I happen to agree with Will, however controversial the stance may be. I think that #2/3 are just coming across as pretentious when, in reality, it appears to me that THEY did not really get Synecdoche, New York. I think Kaufman was addressing the many aspects of life and showing that nothing has an answer, but it always exists and continues. Anyway, I don't think the article is really about that message per-say. It is more about the way the main character of each movie is approached. 8 1/2 and Syecdoche are VERY similar in this department. And the unfinished space shuttle vs. the city of new york that is always growing, never finishing are representations of each movies parallel. Well written. Like it a lot!!

Josiah_Rah on May 3, 2009


I think one of the strongest similarities between the two is in their finales. *****MILD SPOILER ALERT***** for those who haven't seen either film... At the end of 8 1/2, Guido gives in to the very force he was fighting for the entire film: imperfection. Instead of driving himself crazy, trying to craft a flawless masterpiece, he comes to the realization that his creativity, much like the disjointed, surreal vignettes we see throughout the film, is at its best when allowed to roam free, perfect or not. He finds perfection in imperfection. While this leaves him with an unfinished film -- and an unhappy producer -- it also leaves him at peace, as Guido learns to accept the circus that is an artist's creative faculty; hence the literal circus Guido conducts at film's end. I think Caden comes to the same conclusion. Throughout much of the film, he's worrying -- about finishing his work; about his relationships; he worries the most, it seems, about death, as he does in earlier sequences, where he's likely imagining or exaggerating small illnesses as something grand. This OCD manifests itself best in his work -- he overanalyzes and micromanages his theater piece -- and his life -- to the point of incomprehensibility. What Caden doesn't understand until the end of the film, however, is that his piece, just like life, isn't meant to be perfect, or analyzed to the closest detail; doing so strips it of any value; you lose sight of yourself and the life around you, just as he loses the ability to see his wife's pictures, or the beauty that is an incomplete, albeit well-crafted or true, work of art. It makes sense, then, at film's end, when... ***SPOILER ALERT*** ...Caden finally relinquishes his fear of illness/death and lets himself die. Interestingly, however, he does this only under the guiding narration of the actress who's playing another version of Caden. He effectively needs to step outside himself -- to see the forest for the forest, instead of the trees -- in order to see his life, and his work, as a whole. Sure, the piece never opens, but, seeing it from a fuller perspective, he's able to see, and perhaps appreciate, the sheer scope of just how much he has accomplished over his entire life. Sure, it's not finished, but it's something; it's art. For Guido and Caden, then, the key lesson is just to let go and live; to let go and create. Whatever comes out, won't be perfect, but it will be theirs. If they allow it to be.

Clarence on May 3, 2009


Sorry Josiah_Rah, but if you actually agree that the film is a hollow rip-off of 8 1/2, that basically cements that, no, in fact it's YOU who doesn't "get it".

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


Well, Miles, if you broke down the central themes and major events of each movie i feel you would have two very similar lists. Correct me if I'm wrong, which I am sure you will. 🙂

Josiah_Rah on May 3, 2009


Also it's been touched upon before, but personally I find the endings to both films greatly different and almost polar opposites; the end of 8 1/2 finds Guido embracing the (both literal and figurative) "circus" that is his life and the lives of those around him, and meshes both the "real" world of the film and the artificial "dream world" that Guido every so often is shown drifting off into. This has always symbolized, to me anyway, what the film is really about -- it's not about the pressure Guido is under so much as the grand, almost operatic spectacle he's made out of his life, and how it's beginning to take a tole on him (and, invariably, his work). Synecdoche, on the other hand, finds Caden obsessing over the work to the very last second, even as his world (and, as it so happens, all of New York City) crumbles around him; at various times we see Caden and co. weaving through the "real" world almost obviously, focusing on their own fears, doubts, misgivings and what have you while shutting out the actual, organic world around them; the grand tragedy of Caden's play is that he attempts to both understand and find the "truth" at the heart of a world he routinely distances himself from -- even as the "real" Manhattan is literally going to pieces around him, he's building an artificial, false world to take shelter in, while convincing himself that doing so will help him understand the world around him. For Caden, it's all about the "art", and really all about him; that's why his relationships don't pan out, why he never really finds a place for himself, why his play -- which intends to document real human interactions, completely devoid of artifice -- never takes shape the way he so wants it to. Caden never embraces the circus; even up to the very end, he's distancing himself even while attempting to understand it. Caden dies a lonely, broken shell of a man, still trying to "crack" his play (and, really, to gain an understanding of his world and thus his own place in it) while never actually succeeding in doing so. Where Guido finally embraces both the world around him and the "dream world" that gives him solace, and we watch as the two become meshed in a grand, operatic spectacle of a finale, Caden remains ever searching yet ever falling short of his one true ambition: to understand, and to embrace. The whole tragedy of his character is that he pushes people away while ever hoping to "get" them and to become one with them, to find the "truth" in both them and in himself.

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


Meant to write "obliviously" in the second sentence of the second paragraph, my bad.

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


What I will cop to is that Synecdoche is perhaps the closest film made in the last few years to 8 1/2, in as much as both deal with the friction between reality and artifice (or, if you like, the "real world" and the "imaginary") and the relationships between the artist and their art in imaginative, brilliant ways. However, when you break it down, I think it's clear that the two are separate -- if equally ambitious and equally inventive -- entities.

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


@Miles Trahan. Maybe I am picking up on subtleties that do not exist within the text, are you saying that you like Synecdoche more?

Sean Hunter on May 3, 2009


No, I don't think I can even truly wrap my head around Synecdoche at this point (it's definitely a film that inspires multiple viewings, and I've only seen it twice) but I do think it's one of the best films to come out in years and a film that deserves a lot more than the source article gave it credit for. 8 1/2, to me, is a defining work, a classic; it's too soon to say the same for Synecdoche, a film which -- while I love it -- I feel is much more polarizing and definitely more flawed.

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


I disagree with the piece. I agree with post #3. Whenever a film explores the creative process, there is bound to be similarities amongst those films. But going as far as to suggest that Kaufman "ripped-off" Fellini is ignorance. It's also impossible to say one movie is self-indulgent and another isn't. How can that be measured? And also, what's wrong with self-indulgence? When someone analyzes themselves and projects it on a screen, writes it in a book or whatever, I, personally, learn more about myself that way than some filmmaker trying to relate to some huge audience. Self-indulgence isn't a bad thing in the least. Self-indulgence is learning. You're learning about the only person you're sure of. I've said this once and I'll say it again: If you’ve ever made/created anything; a mobile for your 7th grade science class, scrapbook for your grandma, chocolate chip cookies for your lover—how can you not understand Caden Cotard? It's a movie about imperfect beings trying to make a perfect play. It's absurd but they try anyway. Fellini made an Italian masterpiece. And maybe in 40 years, people will see that Kaufman has made an American masterpiece. "Synecdoche" is uniquely American and the only good American movie to come out of 2008.

Adam on May 3, 2009


#6 - There's nothing pretentious about me understanding, or rather interpreting, something you couldn't.

Fuelbot on May 3, 2009


Who wrote this?

Seriously on May 3, 2009


@ Miles Trahan...and everyone else! I'm slowly truckin' through your posts so give me time. I left to grab a bite for dinner and come back to find a slew of opinions! =) **POSSIBLE MILD SPOILERS** With regard to the film's end, I would agree that each end with the protagonist at different stages of reality. However, Caden's obsession with the immensity of the world means nothing when he can only see himself. His selfish nature is exemplified by the massive scope of his production. With regard to Guido, his self-centric nature comes to its zenith at the conclusion of the film when he takes his own life. However, a hermeneutic critique of anything is obstructed by our own subjectivity. My insight will surely differ from yours. Each person can take something unique from the film. That's one thing that makes these two films so great. To clear the air, I absolutely loved both films. I do not hate 'Synecdoche' by any means. In fact, it was one of my favorite films of last year. However, I do believe that it shares a great deal of thematic elements with Fellini's work. In regards to these similarities, I believe that '8 1/2' more effectively communicates them than Kaufman's piece. In the end, Kaufman's film gets lost within itself in a confused, yet still fantastically so, mess. The title is probably a little misleading. I think that 'Synecdoche' is an original piece of work, and I don't think that it plagiarized Fellini. With regard to Kaufman saying he's never seen '8 1/2'- I don't buy it. That remark is on the same level as Foucault saying he never read Weber after he finished 'Discipline and Punish'. I heartily believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the many similar themes don't make 'Synecdoche' a bad film. The fact that 'The Matrix' borrowed heavily from 'Dark City' doesn't make either any worse. It just deserves a little analysis to determine the themes apparent in both. I contend that both films attempt to achieve the same effect, which is the purpose of the body of the article. In this instance, I came to the conclusion that '8 1/2' was the superior work regardless of the fact that it came first. Miles, I love your comments and they've spurred me to think even more heavily on this than I already have. I heartily appreciate the criticism. Thanks for reading everyone! I'll respond to more comments when I get a chance.

Will Schiffelbein on May 3, 2009


"However, a hermeneutic critique of anything is obstructed by our own subjectivity. My insight will surely differ from yours. Each person can take something unique from the film. That's one thing that makes these two films so great. " I heartily agree. Now that you've explained yourself I can see where you're coming from a little better I guess; the title and tone of the latter half of the article made it seem like you were slagging Synecdoche as a tired, hollow retread of 8 1/2; I guess that isn't the case. Perhaps addendum would help dissuade others from having the same initial reaction. I think the beauty of both films is that they manage to inspire such careful analysis while still transcending it; if art inspires (as I believe) to generate discussion and to influence both our minds and our emotions, then this very page is clear evidence that Synecdoche is, if nothing else, a true work of art.

Miles Trahan on May 3, 2009


@17 That'd be me. @15 If the connotation of my words made self-indulgence come off as a negative term, I don't intend to treat it as such. I do believe that the attribute *can* be negative, but only when utilized incorrectly. I think both films pulled it off more effectively than others that attempt to simply show how deep or preposterous film can become. However, I contend that when comparing the two, '8 1/2' is much more effective than 'Synecdoche'. The title is a bit misleading, and I don't think the article conveys the same message. Most meta-referential pieces are bound to be similar to each other, at least to a certain degree. Instead of attempting argue that 'Synecdoche' is a completely unoriginal work would be ignorant, I simply attempt to analyze the thematic similarities between the two and attempt to justify my opinion that Fellini portrays these selected themes more effectively. It would be even more ignorant to assume that I have mentioned every theme, or that these are themes that are apparent to everyone. Instead, a hermeneutic analysis is bound to have differences between every audience. However, these are the themes I analyzed and believe that Fellini portrays more effectively.

Will Schiffelbein on May 3, 2009


In an interview Charlie Kaufman said he'd never seen 8 1/2, I believe he's telling the truth because it's embarrassing. Adaptation was the start of Synecdoche, NY in a way and he took 5 years to make this film and it's extremely personal and on his life. P.S. You're way fucking late on pointing out this comparison.

Tyler on May 3, 2009


OK, Will...seriously are you really going to use the phrase "rip off" when talking about one of the most genious screen writers of our time? Maybe synecdoche uses similar themes and ideas but art is not something spur of the moment. Also, way to use a William Shakespeare qoate at the beginning, maybe I should write a a blog about how 8 1/2 is a rip off of William Shakespeare. I also doubt this article is anything of original thought coinsidering how long ago Synecdoche came out. I mean if you really thought about this on your own and was obvious to you wouldn't you have written about this quite a bit earlier? Why the fuck should I care about your comparison now so much after the fact?

Steve on May 3, 2009


Changed the title slightly to better suit the fact that Kaufman claims he's never seen 8½. And to #21 - It came about because Will and the Film Feed guys recently watched 8½ and made this claim about it and I asked Will to write up an article on it, so it just came about now as a discussion.

Alex Billington on May 3, 2009


Please consider an addendum including the re-explanations you have given in the comments section. Synecdoche was my favorite film of 2008 (I also love 81/2 and have seen both films over 5 times each), and if I had only read the title and article without trudging through the comments to read your justifications and clarifications on your post, I would have considered you to be one of the most ignorant, ill-minded persons in existence.

C'mon on May 3, 2009


Ah, I added the comment right before you changed the title. You should still re-write the article with your clarifications, because even the content seems incredibly arrogant without your further clarifications.

C'mon on May 3, 2009


@22 In regards to the timing, I hadn't seen 'Synecdoche' until it came out on dvd. Since the release was limited, I couldn't catch it in my area. I'm also assuming you didn't even read the article Mr. Steve, as if you did, you would then realize I simply compare the themes between the two films and come to the conclusion that one is more effective than the other. I'll write up an addendum, as I believe @24 is correct in his statement. Thanks for reading further and not deciding I was so ignorant and ill-minded. =)

Will Schiffelbein on May 3, 2009


As someone who likes both films, I'ma say that your love of "8 1/2" seems to greatly overpower how you felt about "Synecdoche, New York", leading you to want to have been watching "8 1/2" again, instead of a film that touches on creation, and interaction with women. To call it an unintentional rip off, or to throw the question out there, demeans both great films.

eric.the.voigt@gmail.com on May 3, 2009


To #23 I honestly hope it wasn't the first time watching it for them, for everyone's sake and credibility.

Tyler on May 4, 2009


There are tons of movies that are ripoffs of 8 1/2. This just feels like some uneducated stance on films or the arts in general. Your thesis is about as groundbreaking as "Is Blow Out an Unintentional Rip Off of Blow Up?" And on this site... Go somewhere else. A topic better suited to this site is something like "Is Iron Man 2 an Unintentional Rip Off of Iron Man?" An article based on what one of those Film Feed dbags said? I guess that's one way to pander to them, Alex.

Candygram on May 4, 2009


Tyler, you may consider it "loss of credibility" for us to have only just seen 8 1/2 however, we are new to the game and we watched the movie out of our own interest not because someone told us to. I seriously hope you do not expect someone to see 8 1/2 when they are a young. I am 19, and while that may make me a "non-credible" source in your eyes, I know i have seen more of those standard classics and beyond then some people of the people who have been doing this for years.

Sean Hunter on May 4, 2009


Thanks! Unintentional Rip Off is a contradiction in terms, but thanks.

sumonesumtime on May 4, 2009


I don't expect everyone too, just those who plan on critiquing films and studying them, I'm 18 and i saw it a year or so ago, of course I don't know how long ago you wanted to be into film, It's hard for anyone of a young age to have a credible opinion and it sucks because that might always be the case. As for Synecdoche, I will always defend it for it's one of the best films of the past 10 years and will gain recognition over time, heck everyone hated Citizen Kane when it came out. As for things deriving from 8 1/2 the list is at least up to 20 on films that heavily 'borrow' but it's hard not too after 100 yeras of solid filmmaking goes by and still you're expected to create something entirely new and brilliant. Good observation though 🙂 -Tyler Wolters

Tyler on May 4, 2009


Not to rub salt in any wounds, but I'm 18 and I've seen 8 1/2 three times. Doesn't mean shit. The fact of the matter is, the article comes across as condescending (though it seems Will didn't intend it to do so) and reads like someone bending over backwards to link up vague similarities between the two and thus discredit the latter as a mere "rip-off". The fact that, if I'm reading it right, the author just viewed both films for the first time recently may have clouded his judgment on Synecdoche.

Miles Trahan on May 4, 2009


"In the end, Kaufman's film gets lost within itself in a confused, yet still fantastically so, mess." just like life which is what makes the ending of Synechdoche consistant with its theme, so it really does have a lot of difference from Fellini. I agree that the two are working in similar concepts but in very different and unique ways.

lando on May 9, 2009


by the same logic of your arguement, you could just as easily say 8 and a half is a rip off of some of the elements in "children of paradise" where Baptist is writing all of his plays based on his personal emotions regarding the other stage actors personal lives and his own wishes, shortcomings and fantasy!!! Once again, I disagree! and if you want to see something classic and older than fellinis work I highly suggest "children of paradise" as I believe it to be one of the most well written, directed and acted moves.

lando on May 9, 2009


@35 I'll definitely check that out. 'Children of Paradise' is now in my Netflix queue. =)

Will Schiffelbein on May 11, 2009


1. "unintentional rip off"? Hmm. More like a TOTAL RIP OFF and a 1/2. 2. The end scene of 8 1/2 is NOT a funeral scene (even though it follows the earlier imaginary suicide under the table at the failed press conference). Guido is accepting his life for what it is. The circus is a metaphor for life. Note the part (epiphany) where Guido sits in the car and the seemingly telepathic reconciliation with Luisa--they are both talking about accepting each other as they are. And life in general: "Count your blessings" is an eternal motif. 3. The art & artistry of 8 1/2 is vastly superior to that of Synedoche, NY. Lighting, camera angles, stage direction, etc., of 8 1/2 has few peers. 8 1/2 is a beautiful film. Citizen Kane is a beautiful film. Synedoche is not one. Synedoche is a great film, but not a beautiful one. There are so many iconic scenes in 8 1/2. Take the harem scene for instance. 4. But then again, its greatness is stolen from 8 1/2. Where Fellini zigged, Kaufman zagged. Synecdoche is 90% Fellini, 10% Kaufman. It's a essentially a very good rip off. 5. Both of Joyce's Ulysses & Finnegan's Wake push the limits of the novel. Likewise, both 8 1/2 and Synecdoche push the limits of film medium. However, Ulysses and Wake are both very different in every way including underlying structure as well as major themes, but 8 1/2 and Synecdoche have the same underlying structure, i.e. film within a film, play within a play, self-referencing hall-of-mirrors mind tricks, director's block, Jungian motifs, etc. Like I said, it's a very good rip off of 8 1/2. The heavy work was done by Fellini. Kaufman merely zagged where the TOWERING MAESTRO had zigged four decades earlier. P.S. 8 1/2 in a nutshell? It defies gravity. The formidable Jedi-mind-tricks which the brilliant Hitchcock invented and/or refined are child's play compared to what Fellini did in 8 1/2.

Fellini_Fan_Antics on Jan 27, 2010

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