Moira+I went to the Watershed this afternoon to see Duke Johnson/Charlie Kaufman’s intriguing, somewhat mystifying, film “Anomalisa”. It’s an unnervingly detailed puppet animation about a motivational speaker who spends one unhappy night in a Cincinnati hotel. The puppet animation initially put me in mind of Wallace+Gromit and Thunderbirds… but the very realistic sex scene (really!) soon put an end to that!
character, Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), is an expatriate Brit in
the US, who has made a successful career for himself writing motivational books
about customer service (yes, I know) and is in Cincinnati to give a speech on
the subject. Stone’s certainly not a charismatic character and he gives every
indication of being clinically depressed or, at the very least, bored and/or
alienated from the world/everyday life.
other characters (men, women and children) in the film, apart from one, are
blandly, identically voiced by Tom Noonan… the one exception is Lisa (nicknamed
“Anomalisa” by Stone), voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Lisa is a bit of a fan
(she’s a call-centre worker, has got his latest book and can’t quite believe when
they get together) and Stone tracks her down when he hears her “different” voice
passing outside his hotel room…
the sameness of voices relates to an uncanny “mask” required in order to
achieve a pleasant customer service manner? Perhaps the puppetry is another
reference to the invisible person on the end of the call-centre telephone?
film is peculiarly creepy – the animation/puppetry is brilliant (realistic and
yet completely artificial), the clothes frequently don’t fit (a bit like the
Thunderbirds Parker!?) and there are times when the characters’ legs appear to be
unduly short or misshapen (or was that just me?).
I found the film beguiling, sad, a little
confusing (but that’s probably just me - I need to read LOTS of analytical reviews
perhaps?) and completely fascinating.
I think you need to see it.
PS: I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Lisa, closing her eyes, wins Michael over with song - softly chanting Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”... it's really rather lovely.
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