Glasgow Film Festival: Imaginative, immaculate animation from Charlie Kaufman
Charlie Kaufman’s latest idiosyncratic experiment gives the mundane an infusion of emotional grandeur as it meticulously blends the surreal and the sombre. Written and directed by the man himself, and co-helmed with animator Duke Johnson, Anomalisa captures a man’s painful, pervasive despondency, as well as the first flushes of what could be love.
What began life in 2005 as a stage play (part of composer Carter Burwell’s Theatre of the New Ear project, where radio plays were performed in front of an audience) has been transformed into a spectacularly sensitive animation. It follows flailing customer service expert Michael Stone (David Thewlis) – author of the amusingly titled self-help book How May I Help You Help Them? – who’s speaking at a conference on the subject and whose crippling disinterest in his existing situation leads him to haplessly pursue an ex and to inappropriately flirt with a pair of conference groupies, one of whom, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), has a voice that marks her out from the crowd.
There’s an overriding sense of the uncanny and some wonderful absurdist interludes but Anomalisa gets to the heart of existential angst and personal weakness as it conveys the monotone drudgery of daily life (Tom Noonan voices all the supporting characters, both male and female, in the same soft, flat key), how depression can lead to destructive folly, and the terror of baring your soul. The eerily lifelike stop-motion style really is something to behold, with its flaws and quirks almost enhancing the humanity on display; the characters’ sad, strange 3D-printed faces seem to shimmer with fluctuating emotion, with prominent join lines which expose their vulnerability. Achingly melancholic and philosophically ambitious, Anomalisa moulds reality into something magical.
Screening on Sun 28 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2016. General release from Fri 11 Mar.