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Anomalisa

December 12, 2016

Anomalisa (2015)
Directors: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson 
Actors: David Thewlis, Tom Noonan, Jennifer Jason Leigh

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Synopsis: A travelling speaker, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), well versed in the business of customer service, pitches up in Cincinnati for another symposium, and over the course of a night in his humdrum hotel, undergoes something of a spiritual crisis.

Review: Charlie Kaufman’s mordant wit comes to bear in this – a marvellously inventive, yet dramatically organic, stop motion animation number that completely justifies its move away from live action.

It’s another of Kaufman’s ingenious works that instinctively understands the sometime bathetic human quest for divinity amid an overarchingly mundane social landscape. And though as a piece of animation it appears deceptively banal and untricksy, it does have one or two sly conceits – namely the seemingly low-fi DIY construct of the humans all being delineated between the head and the face (though we soon come to see that this represents some sort of deep disconnect between the soul and our outward emotions).

As ever with Kaufman, he understands the language of dissatisfied white-collar drudgery perfectly: the scene where Michael loses his temper due to the scolding heat of his hotel shower is a witty testament to the sheer irritable state our tiring, mechanised lives mould us into. Michael’s courtship scene with Lisa equally straddles a perceptive line between pathos and satire, though crucially, Kaufman locates flashes of transcendent beauty (the blood orange sky of the opening plane journey) to offset the bleaker tinge of his film’s rhetoric. (December 2016)

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