After establishing themselves with either a well-received work and/or a commercial success, it can be argued that writer/directors Ingmar Bergman, Sam Peckinpah, Derek Jarman, and Abel Ferrara spent the remainder of their film making credibility (thus losing fair weather fan's credulity) on making films for the benefit of personal reflection. Ugly truths were revealed by all, most famously in the cases of Ferrara and Peckinpah where each man would unabashedly air both their vulnerabilities and venoms toward the opposite sex.
The aforementioned film makers have both devoted lovers and haters, mainly because reacting to one of their films is on par with reacting to the men themselves. I can say I like(d) all of these men, not just because I admire their work but because of an affectionate perception of them that I've gathered from various interviews, biographies, and autobiographies. One thing I can say about all four men is that their films, though personal, always make an effort to reach out toward a shared experience.
Overlong and overwrought, Synecdoche, New York still hits points of cinematic ingenuity that will excite film goers who have grown tired of the same old thing. (Seeing the Oscar-crafted trailers for Doubt and The Reader back-to-back and in front of Synecdoche, New York was enough to make me drool with mindless anticipation).
But Kaufman's self-obsession turns into a whiny plea for pity. The last shot we see is of his surrogate, Caden (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), resting his head on the shoulders of an imaginary mommy. By the end of Synecdoche, New York, the buzz of its originality has worn off and you're left wondering if Kaufman would've been better off keeping these thoughts to himself. He gives his best Christ pose and then makes sure to leave one eye open in order to make note of the kneeling worshipers.
Now, in the comment section to Jason's post on JCVD, he argues that Van Damme's performance is motivated more by fictional theater than any type of personal agenda. Because JCVD is neither written, directed, nor produced by Van Damme, he feels it would be unfair to place any kind of self-serving label on Van Damme. Jason goes on to make a fair comparison between Jean Claude Van Damme playing himself in JCVD and that of John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich. (Please correct me if any of that is inaccurate, Jason.) But, to me, the subtext and pitiful intentions of JCVD come through in Van Damme's performance. Unlike Malkovich, Van Damme appears dutifully aware of the camera and proceeds to milk it. No, not quite like putting himself up on a crucifix, but pretty much equal to sitting in a dunking booth and begging for mercy.