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Synecdoche New York

Volunteer of the Month Sammy Trujillo on Synecdoche, New York

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Sammy Trujillo Votm PicIt’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through summer, but The Frida is seeing out the rest of the season in style! Our Mural Month series continues with A Clockwork Orange, Gummo, and The Color Purple all playing this week. Then our 21st Century Cult series continues next Monday and Tuesday with a special double feature of Mamma Mia! and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! Later in the month, our theater celebrates its Administrative Assistant (and long-time writing team member) Austin Jaye’s birthday with the Director’s Cut of Michael Cimino’s epic, misunderstood masterpiece, Heaven’s Gate (which he just wrote about for a recent blog post). But before we get to Heaven’s Gate, we got to take a detour through Synecdoche, New York, a psychological drama from the mind of Charlie Kaufman!

Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theater director struggling with his work and the women in his life. As he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play, he finds himself weathered by a time-spanning quest to strive for creative perfection. The directorial debut of Kaufman, the film opened to a mixed reception, with some praising its existentialist narrative and postmodern themes (with Roger Ebert even citing it as one of the best films of the 2000s) and others deriding these same elements as overwrought and uninspired. Since then however, it has been included on numerous “Best of” lists from Sight Sound, The Guardian, and the BBC, suggesting that Kaufman’s uniquely imaginitive vision has been vindicated by time.

If you’ve never seen Synecdoche, New York on the big screen (or never seen it at all), you owe this chance to Sammy Trujillo, our August Volunteer of the Month! Currently our longest-serving volunteer, Sammy is one of the few people who has been at The Frida longer than me. As such, my interview with him was far from our first interaction, yet I have to admit he did surprise me during our talk. Someone who watches movies with a keen, critical eye, Sammy has something of a reputation behind the counter for offering controversial (one might even say “hot”) takes on film, media and pretty much anything, provoking humorous debates that often end with all involved rolling in laughter. During our interview however, I got to see a different side of him, with him offering short, direct answers about his time here and discussing the significance of his VOTM pick to both him and Kaufman’s oeuvre. It was an interesting, to-the-point conversation that got me wondering why I never got around to watching Synecdoche, New York and hoping that I can make it out for it tomorrow.

How did you find out about The Frida Cinema?

I did my college internship here back in 2016.

What made you want to volunteer here?

I guess I just got along with so many people here. So after I finished my internship, I just kept coming back.

Synecdoche New York 2

Tell us a little bit about Synecdoche, New York.

It’s a Charlie Kaufman film. He’s one of my favorite filmmakers: he wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Those were some great movies that really got me into movies, but this was his first film that he directed and it just really got into the mind of what a strange personality Charlie Kaufman is. There’s many layers to the movie, it takes many twists and turns, and it’s also, in the end, about the world of theatre, which I feel Kaufman has always loved but never really got to explore in his previous films.

What were your other choices for Volunteer Pick of the Month?

I also picked Offside. It’s a Jafar Panahi film about a couple of girls who sneak into a soccer game in Iran and I also wanted to play Blindspotting, a film set in Sacramento with Daveed Diggs. Basically I was trying to pick that I really like but also that haven’t been played before at The Frida.

What is your favorite Frida memory?

While it’s kind of in my mind right now because Neil Breen is coming back to The Frida but when I watched Twisted Pair, I watched that with a packed audience that was cheering and screaming throughout. At the very end of that movie it says “Cade will return” kind of like the Avengers or Marvel films, and the audience just like flipped out, cheering so wildly. No other memory compares to that.

If you could program any movie here, what would you pick?

Oh man, if I could program any other movie, I’d probably go for like a whole month dedicated to Jafar Panahi. He had to escape Iran recently to avoid getting arrested, so I’d feel it’d be timely. We played No Bears already and I think that actually did well, so I really think a whole month for him would be cool.

Synecdoche, New York screens Thursday, August 10th.


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