In his previous scripts, Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Human Nature, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) proved himself a mulishly brilliant fabulist of depressive folks seeking alternate realities. For his debut as a full-service auteur, he expands this theme to create the comic fantasy of a theater man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his impossible-dream project: a drama that plays out for decades in near-lifesize reproduction of New York City. This downer 8-1/2, with virtually every appealing indie-film actress in the cast, got Manicheanly mixed reviews at Cannes. Some critics found the movie maddening; one or two thought it enthralling. Go with enthralling.