Fri 15 Jan 2016
I expect something different, something smart, something deep, each time I am seeing a film written or (lately) directed by Charlie Kaufman. Many of his films are not one-time experiences, the second or later viewing brings new understanding and discovers of new layers under the one of the original story which is also not obvious or readable from the first time. This may be the case also with Anomalisa, which is also the reason that I am cautious in sharing my disappointment with this latest film of Kaufman, which seems to me to be the more obvious and less sophisticated work that he has made or written in the last two decades.
The story is apparently simple. Michael Stone is a famous author of one of those successful ‘How To …’ business books. He comes for one night in one of these mid-America metropolis that look so much one as the other, he checks into one of these hotels that that look so much one as the other, calls one an ex-girlfriend who is one of those women that look so much one as the other. We soon realize that all the persons he talks with have the same voice, that all women have a very look-alike appearance. Actually, if we pay attention and we know some psychology, Michael may suffer of the Fregoli delusion, a syndrome in which patients believe that other people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise. And the name of the hotel he checked-in is Hotel Fregoli! Or maybe the psychological condition is just a metaphor for broader human estrangement.
All these until he meets Lisa. Or Anomaly-Lisa. Or Anomalisa. The woman who may be the Different One.
I will not continue telling more in order to avoid spoilers, but rather refer on a few details to film-making. Stop-motion, the animation method used by Duke Johnson, and Charlie Kaufman provides a very special look to the film and shifts much of the expression and emotion to the modeled characters, sets, and lighting. All work well together, the faces seem like masks in a theater that reflects the reality but is also somehow different, and so is the surrounding combination of familiar and strange. We are in kind of a dream. yet the situation, characters, suffering is all well-known and very human.
The second part of the story and its outcome, however, quite disappointed me.I had the feeling that too many smart ideas were invested in too small a story. But, as I said, it’s a film by Charlie Kaufman, and I may have not gotten it all.