For some reason I always think that Charlie Kaufman is dead, so each time the writer/director releases a new movie, it’s a pleasant surprise: new Charlie Kaufman movie and—bonus!—Charlie Kaufman’s not dead. (Aside: I also think Marlon Brando’s alive, but we all know that Leonardo DiCaprio is at fault for that one.)
Anyway, the still-breathing Kaufman will see
the Canadian premiere of his latest work at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Anomalisa is a stop-motion animated film that you definitely do not want to bring your kids to. For one thing, the f-word is sprinkled liberally throughout the script. And then there’s the oral sex. Have you ever seen a puppet go down on another puppet? If you answered yes, I’d like to know what kind of depraved dens of puppetry you frequent on Saturday nights. If not, prepare yourself: the scene goes on just long enough to make you feel awkward about sitting next to a stranger, watching two puppets engage in the most intimate of puppet moments. The seat next to me happened to be empty and I still felt squirmy about whoever may have been sitting there in the screening before me.
Of course Anomalisa is more than just a piece of stop-motion porn. The film took the Grand Jury prize when it screened at Venice this past weekend. Co-directors Kaufman and Duke Johnson employ a unique device to tell the story of Michael (voiced by David Thewlis who also has a role in TIFF film
LEGEND), a successful but depressed customer service expert famous for writing a book that’s helped a multitude of businesses increase productivity by 90%.
But Michael isn’t happy until he meets Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character, a call center team leader who seems different from everyone else on the planet. Tom Noonan, who previously starred in Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, is the only other actor in the cast, yet the story features dozens of characters—you’ll have to go see it to find out how that works.
As a comedy, Kaufman’s Kickstarter-funded Anomalisa is dark and witty and subtle—there are no jokes about people who order apple mojitos, the very existence of apple mojitos is the joke. There aren’t any goofy stories about searching for a soulmate in the wrong places, the joke is—and this is a big one—that you might be looking for something that doesn’t exist. Ouch.