Posted by: ckckred | June 25, 2016

Anomalisa

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Since Being John Malkovich debuted back in 1999, Charlie Kaufman has established himself as one of contemporary cinema’s most formidable figures. The screenwriter has cultivated a brand defined by slapstick and tragedy, bonded together through a surrealistic tone that emphasizes moodiness. Films like Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind took this concept to convey the fleeting moments of our lives, and Synecdoche, New York, the screenwriter’s directorial debut, went even further through its depiction of the emotional roller coaster of life itself. For many, Synecdoche was too hefty to digest, but I feel that like Jacque Tati’s Playtime will earn critical reappraisal in the future for its advanced craftsmanship and societal readings.

Anomalisa, Kaufman’s first major project since Synecdoche, feels more at home with some of the writer’s earlier works. The story, based on an audio play Kaufman wrote back in 2005, is more compact compared to Synecdoche’s largeness, focusing on Michael (David Thwlis), a depressed customer service expert deeply unsatisfied with his life and failing marriage. All the voices he hears, be they male or female, sound identical (voiced by Tom Noonan), revealing Michael’s disconnection with society. Yet Michael’s life is suddenly changed when he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a meek young woman who stands out from the dullness of Michael’s world, as he marvels at her unique voice that is an outlier in his ubiquitous surroundings.

It’s perhaps now as good as a time as any to mention that Anomalisa is a stop-motion picture, featuring co-direction by Duke Johnson, who had previously worked on Community and Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole. This aspect of the film certainly advances its comedic elements through its animated action but it also accentuates the monotony of Michael’s world and his seclusion from the rest of society, creating a sense of claustrophobia that dwarfs even Kaufman’s past work. The staples of a Kaufman feature—failure, self-loathing, and loneliness—are on constant display, making Anomalisa feel as personal as Synecdoche, even though the former’s story spans a few days whereas the latter centers on a lifetime. Anomalisa’s most momentous sequence earns the distinction for having the most sexually graphic scene involving puppets since Team America, but whereas that film used the over-the-top realism for laughs, Anomalisa’s portrayal of intercourse connotes Kaufman’s concept of emotional depression.

Kaufman’s philosophical tragicoms are amongst the best of cinema in this young century and Anomalisa is yet another success by the writer, an insightful drama about the emotion of human nature. Simultaneously a humorous yet sorrow experience, Anomalisa is a stirring and cleverly innovative feature.

Editor’s Note: If I were to update my top 10 list of 2015, this would be amongst my choices for the three best of the year.

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Responses

  1. Excellent review. I’m a fan of Kaufman–his humor, his irony, his themes of searching for identity, loneliness. Combine that with my love for stop-action films, it’s such a difficult medium, and this was a winner before I watched it.

    • Thanks, this is definitely another winner by Kaufman. He hasn’t made a movie I didn’t liked and I can’t wait for his next project.

      • We are in total agreement. He takes his time! I don’t see anything in the works or upcoming.

  2. Great review. I really like Kaufman. That guy is a genius. I definitely need to get round to seeing this film soon

    • Thanks man. If you like Kaufman’s stuff, you’ll love this.

  3. I simply can’t wait to see this. I’m annoyed that I haven’t yet.

    • I caught a special re-screening in March and thought it was absolutely superb. I think it’s available on DVD and VOD now, check it out as soon as you can.

  4. Nice review man. I definitely liked this movie a great deal.Kaufman is such a creative genius and technically, I think it’s absolutely brilliant aswell. But it just left me with this really cold feeling that I really didnt like. And not cold in an emotionally moving way, just cold. And unfortunately it really took me out of the film

    • Thanks dude. The ending definitely is chilly but it left me thinking more about the movie’s emotional arc and my appreciation of the picture has only grown. Between this and Synecdoche, Kaufman’s work has certainly become more surreal but I think both of those films have strong payoffs.

      • It definitely has. Though, I gotta say Synecdoche is on a whole other level. Its a film you keep thinking about for days. It’s really beautiful in it’s ambiguity.

      • I’d love to see him do something with Spike Jonze again too. For me, he was just at his best with Jonze.

      • There’s nothing more than I would like to see than another collaboration between Jonze and Kaufman, though Jonze has been doing pretty well on his own. Her is the best movie that’s come out in the past couple of years in my mind.

      • Yeah thats the only reason holding their collaboration back, which is that both are doing pretty well themselves. But another collaboration would b great


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