The 29th Hall of Fame

Tools    





11 Foreign Language movies to go


Anomalisa - (2015)

Directed by Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman

Written by Charlie Kaufman

Starring David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Tom Noonan

This review contains spoilers

I must be blind. Anomalisa contains a hidden surprise that, once known, seems rather obvious - but this observation seems small or cosmetic when considering how the film gets across what it means emotionally and thematically. As a whole, it's an interesting mix of the simple and mechanically complex. Stop-motion animation has been employed to bring it's story to life - one that began it's life as an audio play, and one that benefits from animation due to a central need for 'sameness' and duplication when it comes to almost all of it's periphery characters. This is because main character Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) has something that relates to a Fregoli delusion - he sees everyone he comes across as basically the same person, in looks, feel and sound. It's something that disoriented me at first, with even female characters being voiced by Tom Noonan, who plays all characters who aren't Stone or the lady he meets in this film, Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Michael Stone has just landed in Cincinnati, on his way to the Fregoli Hotel for the night before a speaking engagement about customer service. He's married and has a child, but being in Cincinnati brings up an old relationship he fled before settling down - and he proceeds to call this woman, and invite her to meet up with him. The meeting doesn't go well, but afterwards he happens to hear a voice in the hotel hallway - one that stands out from all the exact voices Michael hears all the time. He desperately searches from room to room, eventually coming across a pair of his most ardent fans - Emily and Lisa. After drinks and lively conversation, Michael invites Lisa to his room, and their intimacy convinces Michael that he could only find happiness with Lisa - after a revealing nightmare during the night, the next morning he decides he must leave his wife and start anew with her, but building up inside of him is an anxiety that will make everything unclear.

I can understand a lot of the emotional context in this film - I think I'm the right age for it, and I also think I've had the kind of life experiences that produce an empathy within me in regards to Michael. I don't agree wholeheartedly with his decisions and view of life, but I understand his confusion and anxiety regarding his environment and other people. He finds love with someone who is different, a little insecure yet sincere and good-hearted. A quiet woman who we sense, after a while, might not be the ideal match with the intelligent Michael - he obviously needs intellectual stimulation, and seems anal in his need for proper manners, cleanliness and neatness. The main factor in her favor is she's the only person Michael can really see - everyone else just melding into a grey same-ness, sounding and looking alike. It almost feels like Michael is meeting another person for the very first time, with everyone else just being an amalgamation and extension of his own psyche. Later events hint at the fact that the absolute inverse of this is true.

The three actors we hear in this were the same ones who performed in the audio play, with one stage left, one stage right and one center-stage - having no props or scenery to provide any visual cues for the audience. Turning this into stop-motion action was not only ridiculously difficult and time-consuming - it nearly became a disaster, as problem after problem beset producers and animators. From leaking stage-roofs to repossessed equipment and unusable footage, new intractable problems were always just around the corner. At times a full day's work for one animator would only produce a few seconds of usable footage - so there were many working away at the same time with distinctive models which sport two-piece faces. This was all developed at first through Kickstarter, to fund a short film version of Anomalisa until eventually further funds were secured for a feature length version. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, wary at first, eventually gave this fully-fledged effort at bringing it into a visual medium his blessings.

So, what is the hidden surprise? It is the fact that Michael may have not spent the night with anyone - but instead imagined his entire encounter. Before the scene where he meets Lisa, Michael searches the Cincinatti streets to buy a toy for his young son. He inadvertently wanders into an adult shop, and notices a Japanese erotic doll which has damage to the same side of it's face that Lisa ends up sporting, and which leaks semen when he eventually gets it home and unveils it. There are other hints, such as when Lisa is asked what her favourite foreign language is, she replies "Japanese, obviously." Has Michael simply imagined a special night with somebody completely different from all of the same usual people, using the Japanese doll as a substitute person? There's enough room to leave that question perpetually open, and give leeway to whichever interpretation pleases the viewer. Anomalisa does leave us with a parting vision of Lisa and Emily, whether that be in Michael's imagination or not - and provides us with what is meant to be a parting letter to her one night stand.

The film has been constructed by an army of technicians and artisans, so when everything is added, the only two people who serve as a proxy to those who produced it are the idea men - screenwriter Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson. We already know Kaufman's imagination is a fertile field for all kinds of inner psychological exploration and humanist discovery. Johnson is a relatively new face amongst talented animators. I enjoyed the short "puppetized" clip of My Man Godfrey we get from a puppet television (it was originally meant to be Casablanca, but Godfrey was free and thus the more economically viable choice) and the crease that was purposely left in the puppet's faces. At times these faces literally fall apart - events which occur during moments of great stress, or in dreams, and that adds an element of expressive freedom. Nothing could communicate dissonance any clearer than that. It also, bravely, includes full-on puppet sex - and the sex scene we're treated to in Anomalisa has been praised for it's awkward real-feeling authenticity. As is usual with Kaufman, it feels like we're positioned as spectators deep inside the protagonist's mind.

I enjoyed and really felt Anomalisa, and could see myself watching it again. The world it exists in looks sadly dreary - a look that really worked for what Kaufman was aiming for. When we see shifting sunlight in it - a connection between our real world and Michael's world appears, shifting, dimming and reigniting during the hours we spend in it. Emotionally it was complex, relatable, and very much within the bounds of believable experience. Michael Stone is afflicted with a delusion (I thought he was gay at first, with his partner and past lover having a male voice) which complicates the way he relates to everyone in his life, and it explains his habit of keeping his distance from most everyone he meets. To fall in love at this moment causes a grave crisis, and is as frightening for him as it is exciting, which causes the speech at the conference to go horribly awry. That's a typical Kaufman development for a character - and something I think I was prepared for. I'm glad that it ended on a somewhat warm note - with Lisa and Emily driving in the sunshine, and Lisa happily writing to Michael about future possibilities, and happy thoughts. The family unit is still together, even if slightly unstable. We don't need unrealistic 'Happily Ever Afters' - and a leaky animatronic Japanese doll tells us that this was mainly a hiccup in the mind of a troubled protagonist who perhaps has these moments more regularly than we even realise.

__________________
My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : Anomalisa (2015)



It does make sense about the hidden surprise. I hadn't thought about that before. But in a way it diminishes the impact of the story for me as it erases the one brief moment that we see him 'wake up' from his locked in reality and 'see' another person for who they really are. If that's not part of the real story and the encounter with Lisa is imagined then it's like the film kills it's own hope and it's strongest scenes. So we're saying JR wasn't really shot after all!



Good writeup, PHOENIX. I also didn't pick up on the possibility that Lisa may have been a figment of Michael's imagination. I agree with Citizen, though, that if that is the case, it does diminish the overall impact.

There's a good video essay that has a comment I agree with that Lisa does exist and that the sex doll is a metaphor for their relationship. Michael appreciates what he finds unique about Lisa just enough to get in her pants. Lisa's letter at the end is a reminder of what could have been if he hadn't started seeing her as just another person.



...There's a good video essay that has a comment I agree with that Lisa does exist and that the sex doll is a metaphor for their relationship. Michael appreciates what he finds unique about Lisa just enough to get in her pants. Lisa's letter at the end is a reminder of what could have been if he hadn't started seeing her as just another person.
Good!...I appreciate that info you posted as it now restores my admiration for the film and it should figure highly on my ballot.



Good!...I appreciate that info you posted as it now restores my admiration for the film and it should figure highly on my ballot.
Cool. That is a good channel, by the way. There's a lot of good movie analyses on it.

That begs the question, though: where'd the surprise come from?
Ugh, never mind. I'll just take it as the director raising a possibility and not think about it too much.

I'll probably watch it this week or next week.



11 Foreign Language movies to go
Good writeup, PHOENIX. I also didn't pick up on the possibility that Lisa may have been a figment of Michael's imagination. I agree with Citizen, though, that if that is the case, it does diminish the overall impact.

There's a good video essay that has a comment I agree with that Lisa does exist and that the sex doll is a metaphor for their relationship. Michael appreciates what he finds unique about Lisa just enough to get in her pants. Lisa's letter at the end is a reminder of what could have been if he hadn't started seeing her as just another person.
Yeah, that would be my preferred interpretation as well. Taking Lisa out of the picture just destroys a lot of what the film is saying about Michael - so giving the doll that scar just reinforces how the doll and Lisa are metaphorically linked. If Kaufman wanted us to be asking questions about all of it, I wouldn't put it past him to just think of all interpretations as valid and coexisting though. It encourages us to look at everything in the film so much closer, and see more in it - but he'd never want us to come to the conclusion that Michael imagined Lisa and that's that. Just to look at the doll and equate it with her.



Das Boot


"I'm gonna need you to Jurgen PAUSE now."

This remains the best submarine movie I've ever seen. It's also the longest one I've ever seen, which is hardly a fault since it doesn't waste a minute. Are there stretches in which not much happens? Yes, but when they're not the (incredibly tense) moments when the U-96 crew is waiting for the British to end their pursuit, they're showing how monotonous sub life can be. Thankfully, these scenes are not monotonous in and of themselves. Jurgen Prochnow's career-making performance is mostly responsible for this for how convincingly and unforcedly he expresses how good or dire things are for ship and crew with single looks. Just as deserving of credit is Herbert Grönemeyer's lieutenant and audience surrogate, whose equally natural work make me feel like I'm in his shoes. When I watch a sub movie, I want to take in the dankness, claustrophobia and that diesel smell. The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide come close to capturing this vibe, but this movie nails it. Cinematographer Jost Vacano made me feel like my own walls were closing in and his breakneck dashes down the fuselage indicating that the British are coming are such a rush. After everything "the old man" and crew go through, is it anticlimactic that so many of them not only die at their mission's end, but also so suddenly? Definitely not. Stark as it may be, there's no better reminder that regardless of what you think about the British or the Germans, war is the real enemy here. Even if the U-96 and her crew had survived the Allies' bombs, a better world would have them not going on their mission at all.

This movie is invaluable as a record of the wartime submarine experience from its discomforts to its tedium to especially in the case of Chief Mechanic Johann how it tests one's psyche. It's just as worthy of being remembered, if not moreso, for how it captures varied responses to being thrust into a situation in which death is more likely than victory. In addition to being partly to blame for Johann's breakdown, there's Fähnrich, whose constant writing of letters to his fiancée he doubts she'll ever receive is just as hard to watch. The captain's response to simply get the job done, keep his crew alive and get them home safely is the most honorable reaction, not to mention the most interesting. There is the possibility that after spending so much of his adult life in the military, it's the only response he's capable of having. There are a few occasions when the movie's age and/or cost-cutting measures took me out of the moment, particularly the obvious models and the sometimes chintzy musical score. Also, when you consider how much time we spend with the U-96 crew, it would be nice if the opening scene had gone on a bit longer so that our introductions to them were more proper. While balancing these nitpicks against how much this movie gets right, however, they're not enough to affect my rating. Besides, even though this not only the longest submarine movie I've seen, but also one of the longest I've seen period, I'd watch the nearly 300-minute miniseries cut from 1987 without hesitation.




Allaby's Avatar
Guy who likes movies
I rewatched Anomalisa (2015) today. Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, this stop motion animated drama features the voice talents of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan. It's about Michael Stone, a man struggling with loneliness and a life that feels mundane and boring. He is looking for connection and meaning and then he meets a woman who seems different from everyone else named Lisa.

I really liked the film the first time I saw it and I liked it even more this time. The stop motion animation is really well done and beautiful. Performances from the three actors are excellent. I liked the idea of using one actor to voice everyone, except for the two main characters. This was a very effective way to show how everyone starts to look and sound the same to the main character. The screenplay is really well written and has a lot of layers. There is ambiguity to the film and it can be interpreted in at least a couple ways.

SPOILERS: My interpretation is that Lisa was real and the encounter between Michael and Lisa really happened. Part of the reason is because Lisa was with a friend. If Lisa was really the sex doll or just a hallucination or dream, then it seems unlikely that she would have a friend with her. Also, the scene at the end where Lisa is writing to him and her friend is with her doesn't seem like a hallucination/dream/fantasy. It seems like it is from Lisa's point of view instead of Michael's.

The film doesn't give the audience easy answers. We don't know what the future holds for Michael and maybe that is okay. His wife asks him at the end "who are you?" and "who is anyone?" The implication to me is that most people don't really know who they are and most of us struggle with loneliness or lack of meaning in our lives. But there is still an element of hope here. We can survive and maybe it will be alright. Maybe that is the lesson. Or maybe there is no lesson at all...and that is a lesson itself. Excellent film.



SPOILERS: My interpretation is that Lisa was real and the encounter between Michael and Lisa really happened. Part of the reason is because Lisa was with a friend. If Lisa was really the sex doll or just a hallucination or dream, then it seems unlikely that she would have a friend with her. Also, the scene at the end where Lisa is writing to him and her friend is with her doesn't seem like a hallucination/dream/fantasy. It seems like it is from Lisa's point of view instead of Michael's.
Good call, and correct me if I'm wrong since it's been a while, but we see Lisa's friend Emily as she really is in that scene instead of the way Michael sees her. If so, I'm sure that was done on purpose.



Allaby's Avatar
Guy who likes movies
Good call, and correct me if I'm wrong since it's been a while, but we see Lisa's friend Emily as she really is in that scene instead of the way Michael sees her. If so, I'm sure that was done on purpose.
Correct. We see Emily's real, normal face. I do agree that was intentionally.




Stroszek (Werner Herzog 1977)

I'm wickedly tired having only slept 4 hours last night so this will be a short review. To the point, I liked this! I was really impressed by the documentary style of film making without any fancy bs. I mean this felt authentic. The sets, well didn't look like sets, I'm sure they were all real on location shooting...and the actors I knew nothing of them or this movie before watching it but I had an idea that Bruno wasn't a typical actor but might be somewhat mentally slow, I liked him. I found Bruno and his story interesting, call it honest film making if that makes sense. So after watching this I went and read the IMDB trivia for Stroszek & Bruno and learned that my hunch was right and that Bruno S. had a troubled life of abuse and had been institutionalized on and off for 23 years. I think it's great that Werner seen Bruno and thought that the man and his story was worthy of film. After reading about Bruno and learning that was his real apartment and his own prized piano I was even more impressed with this nom and with Herzog too.


Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	Stroszek (Werner Herzog 1977).png
Views:	36
Size:	277.5 KB
ID:	88139  



La Promesse (1996) -


Even though nothing about this film stuck out to me as great, it was still a solid film that I enjoyed very much. Igor, Roger, and Assita made for a memorable trio of characters who carried the movie really well. As Siddon noted, Roger borders on being a villain from beginning to end. In the second half, he obviously causes problems, but his behavior is spotty even before that as well. There are several scenes throughout the film where he shows abuse, creepiness, and love towards Igor. For instance, after he beats his son for giving away a lot of money to someone else, he laughs it off and tells his son he loves him, jokes about him getting laid, and brings him to a bar where an older woman flirts with him. The impression you get is that, while he isn't a bad person per se, some of his parenting choices are questionable and he might not be the best choice of a guardian for Igor. He doesn't quite cross the line into awfulness though. Assita is also memorable as she shows a certain level of distrust towards Igor throughout most of the film. She threatens him with a knife, tries to get rid of him at a couple points, and frequently asks Igor if he's hiding anything from her. It's clear she has experienced a lot of abuse/betrayal from those around her and, as a result, finds it hard to place her full trust in anyone. As for Igor, he may seem somewhat one dimensional on the surface, but a few things can be said about his character as well. He doesn't go to school, struggles to maintain a job due to the demands of being a human smuggler, and doesn't seem to have a future outside of taking over his father's profession. In terms of his personality, he seems somewhat blank in contrast to the other two characters, but I think he acts as a cypher for the audience. Since he's one of the only people in the film who help Assita, he's the one you may relate to the most. I also enjoyed how his morals weren't of a black and white level of nobility as, while he has good intentions, the details he hides from Assita throughout the film make his process of carrying out his goal questionable. Outside of these three characters, I don't know that there's a whole lot else for me to dig at, but there were a couple small takeaways here and there I enjoyed. Illegal immigration is a big political issue and it would've been easy for the film to feel preachy at convincing you to support one side or the other. However, I appreciated that it didn't get into the political arguments of either side and simply showed you their plight and their day-to-day activities as this was more than enough to invest me into the film. Aside from this, however, the three characters I discussed up above were my main selling points for this film. They were, of course, very well-realized and the payoffs to their arcs were good enough so that I wasn't left thinking the film was missing something. So yeah, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It has a few things on its mind and does a lot with them.

Next Up: Stroszek



movies can be okay...
Anomalisa (2015) directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson



"The end is built into the beginning". A special quote that has always stuck with me from director Charlie Kaufman's preceding film and directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York. It remains applicable in Anomalisa as well, as we hear the repeating and muddled chatter of people in the background during both the opening and the ending, foreshadowing the themes to come and summarizing the general psyche of our main character.

We are introduced to Michael, a gloomy middle-aged fella who's ironically enough a motivational speaker in customer service. He goes to Cincinnati for business purposes and stays in the Fregoli hotel. Obviously it's no coincidence that Fregoli is the name of a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person. However, in interviews, Kaufman stresses the fact that Michael does not actually suffer from this delusion, and I'm glad he emphasizes that, because it stops people from taking the easy way out by viewing it as a literal explanation for all of the happenings, when in reality, it should only play as a vehicle metaphor to describe Michael's distance and disconnect with his surroundings. Michael doesn't physically see an identical face in everyone around him, he shouldn't be actually hearing the same voice either, so why is it he feels that way?

It's apparent from the get-go how much Michael can't stand the small talk, he would rather be left alone than have to be subjected to the same boring redundant mechanical and lifeless conversations. He comes across as extremely arrogant for having such views, and I believe some of Kaufman's beliefs on the current state of art and cinema might have slipped into his writing of this character. He has criticized on multiple occasions Hollywood's factory made movies for their mechanical making process. They rip away the individuality of art for the sake of what's the safest road leading towards the most amount of money. It's a hard pill to swallow for a man like Kaufman who has been struggling to find sufficient funding for his projects and ideas. He's only managed to direct 3 movies in the past 14 years, and It's sad, because we're missing out. In a world where almost every film seems exactly the same, his movies continuously stand out in a refreshing way, like anomalies.

During Michael's phone call with his wife, there seems to be some yearning to communicate something else, something deeper inside. He doesn't reject her completely and is overall more patient with her than with anybody else we've seen up to that point. She is his wife after all, but more importantly, there probably was that special spark between the two in the past, and Michael although clearly unsatisfied with their current relationship, his voice indicates a hope for a return to what's before. He would trade anything in the world right now to pick up the phone and get the old Donna back, hear the voice he once loved and married. This made me have a thought experiment that relates to the Fregoli delusion and its significance: is it possible that after Michael and Donna's bond started to break, they decided to have a child as a last resort, not only to try and save their relationship, but from Michael's end he's more so experimenting on his "condition" and pushing and testing its threshold. He's creating a new pure being, and I'm sure it's for the sake of maybe creating that pure special bond with it that would put him out of his depressing misery. So the question remains, would newborns also be depicted as having the same identical face and voice in this world? I personally believe that the human spirit is something so singular, and only after it's subjected to the forces of our society is it then slowly but surely spoiled and molded into becoming a replica of the rest. As Michael stated in his speech in the end, what does it mean to be human, truly?



While in Cincinnati, Michael is haunted by the memories of an ex-lover from before his marriage and precedes to call her and plan a meeting with her. This speaks to a couple of facts: One, Michael has been this way long before he married. Two, Michael has probably had multiple affairs during his marriage whenever he goes on his business trips, all for the sake of "healing himself". I'm sure had he gone to a different city we would've heard about a whole other ex-lover, and that's in accordance with his character as we clearly see he's in constant search for that special connection. Three, Michael is desperate. He calls Bella and disappointingly recognizes her voice as the same as everyone else's. Similarly, he obviously wouldn't recognize her as she enters the restaurant, but once she introduces herself, he lunges at her hugging her excitedly. It's a jarring action to see from a character who we just witnessed could not stand to entertain a conversation with his taxi driver, the hotel receptionist, or the bellboy. But again, it speaks to his desperation and longing for that past bond.

After the failed reconciliation between Bella and Michael, we're introduced to Lisa, and she immediately feels like such a breath of fresh air, which couldn't have possibly been achieved this successfully without suffering through the pain and boredom of our main character first. She's easily lovable, she's nervously funny, she obviously loves Japanese, and there's a clear lot of depth to her that we can see from her body language to her tone. At one point she tells her friend Emily that she'll stick with her instead of going with Michael, and that obviously projects how she would've liked to have been treated by Em in the past during all of her escapades with the different men that keep hitting on her and giving only her that kind of attention. It's clear that this courtesy she's giving to her friend was never reciprocated before, and so this kind of intelligent social and situational awareness could only come from a person who's become very in tune with their emotions due to past trauma and hurtful experiences.

Lisa is the only character thus far to have a different looking face and a different sounding voice, so naturally Michael would gravitate towards her. However, their entire meeting and first encounter still feels like an anomaly. We don't quite understand why Michael specifically sees her differently, hears her differently. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder of course, and again as Michael stated in his later speech, we should look for what is special about each individual and focus on that, all that good and dandy stuff etc...but there has to be something else, right? Funnily enough, Lisa is always silencing herself in embarrassment, almost in complete opposition to every other character who seemingly can't shut up in Michael's eyes, so that contrast right there might just be what makes them perfect for each other.



As soon as they stepped together into Michael's bedroom, it became very clear to me that he is fetishizing her more than anything else. He keeps emphasizing the usage of her voice and how essential it is she keeps talking. Even during the sex he insists she makes some noises, almost implying he wouldn't enjoy it otherwise. The fact he's narrowing in on that solely and so desperately makes him come across as some sort of pervert. Lisa even calls him out when he attempts to kiss her scar. His lack of substantial relationships for so long must have turned him into this aggressive monster eager to devour anything that smells differently, not realizing he'd be ruining it in the process. This whole situation is another reason why I think the Fregoli delusion is just a metaphor. Michael's heavy infatuation with the "voices" rather than anything else leads me to believe that there's something about people's usual conversations he's disgusted by. So what is so special and unique about Lisa's words, talk, and conversation?

It could also be that Michael's libido is just a little out of control. It would explain that weird masturbation scene as he was dialing up Bella's phone number. He also made sexual advances towards her, and then immediately went to a sex shop after having been rejected. He uses the toy at some point, among other different things that could point towards that direction. Don't put it past Kaufman, that man's libido is questionable as well, remember 2001's Human Nature.

Either way, this relationship between Michael and Lisa is dangerous just as much as it is toxic. Despite how fantastical it may seem to both parties, it is indeed too good of a story to remain true. It's a fleeting connection that has the potential of destroying Lisa's remaining self esteem if the complete truth is revealed, and sinking Michael even deeper into his depression once it reaches its final stop. And let's not be mistaken, Michael is a 100% the antagonist in this relationship, in his life, and in this entire movie in general.

After what I'd consider to be the most realistic sex scene I've ever seen in a movie, Michael happens to have a nightmare, and the sequence that follows is one of my favorites of the entire experience. It reminded me of Being John Malkovich, especially the part where Malkovich goes into the portal and inside his own mind. They're both hilarious, haunting, and realistically nightmarish as they materialize some of our worst fears. A lot of times I can get bothered by the misuse or overuse of reincorporations as they often render the movie more artificial, but Anomalisa is a perfect example of how to bypass that kind of problem. Most of them happen during Michael's nightmare, put forward as his subconscious retelling the defining moments of that day, like Lisa falling in the exact same spot as before, the hotel door not opening quick enough, the 90% line...Any other time a reincorporation occurs, it either brings some new information along with it, or is quite helpful at unlocking some of the film's secrets.

After waking up from that hell hole, the first thing our main character does is puff a smoke, and we've seen that be his release time and time again. Every time he lights a cigarette it's after that frustrating sense of loneliness' attempt to grab him once again. He says to Lisa, "I don't want to lose you", almost knowing what's soon about to transpire, feeling their time is slowly coming near to its end. We also realize that these kinds of nightmares have been haunting him for so long now, when Lisa points out he's been thrashing around in their bed all night, almost in the exact same wording used by his wife during their phone call.



At breakfast, Lisa's "flaws" start coming out, and although I've always had the criticism of them being revealed too suddenly and all in one instant, it could be indicative of Michael constantly turning a blind eye to their visibility beforehand, all in order to keep his happy facade intact. The acting in this scene has always amazed me. In such a sensitive moment, there's appropriately so much subtlety to the voice acting as well as the animation of their body language. Lisa's paranoia and insecurities are clear in her tone, while Michael slowly transitions into the ol' disappointed gloomy self he started as. It's a sad picture in front of us, especially when you think back to their earlier state in the restaurant. It almost brought me to tears seeing how happy Michael was during that scene, looking like he was touched by an angel. Even the mise-en-scène reflected his euphoria, with everybody else in the restaurant sitting all alone which directly contrasts his earlier meeting with Bella where he was the only one by himself. We still ask ourselves, why is it that such superficial "flaws" manage to break the strength of the magic between our two leads. I personally see it as the result of a minesweeper effect, where the uncovering of one bad trait leads to the rest detonating and emerging. Speaking of effects, the image of Lisa's face being blocked by the morning sunlight, acting almost as a transitioning fade effect, while her voice is slowly changing to Tom Noonan's...simply genius.

Now would be a good time I guess to talk a little about some of the behind the scenes, before we get into what I deem to be the most important section of the film. Before the production was even thought of, Anomalisa was actually just a radio play written by Kaufman way back when, and only years later did the opportunity present itself to have it be made into a film. The decision to choose the animation medium is clearly appropriate and fitting, as this kind of story would've never worked in a live-action. Having it be stop motion despite its risks and dangers, especially for such a low budget, was I'm sure challenging but once again very fitting and ultimately fulfilling thematically. We witness a great demonstration of the latter in one specific scene: right after Michael's return from the sex shop (which its timing would turn out to be quite significant), and his struggling to balance out between the cold and hot water of his shower (a relatable moment for all of us I'm sure), he looks at himself in the mirror and the lower half of his puppet face starts falling off. This surreal bit comes across as our main character's loss of sanity. It looked as though he was about to give up on his individuality and start wearing the same mask as everyone else's, a sign of succumbing to his doom. We even get an illustration of what that would look like during his nightmare. The fact that he hears Lisa's voice a second before he was about to totally lose it makes it seem as an instinctive reaction from his body, at that point in survival mode, as a last attempt to save his stability.



The making took a total of 3 years, and the end product produced some accomplishments that were unprecedented. The shots of Michael running for example, their mechanism never fails to amaze and entertain me. With the limited resources causing the work environment to become a no room for error zone, it's extra impressive to see so much time given to such little and sometimes unnoticeable details. One mistake could lead to weeks if not months of setbacks, yet we still are left with moments such as Bella's bag becoming stuck to the arm of her chair for a split second, an action I estimate took at least a week to animate, and it's those kind of tiny elements that bring forward so much life to the overall experience. The only aspect I wasn't so crazy about is some of the scene transitions. While most of the editing is great, some cuts were noticeably attempting to hide what I take as production flaws. A couple of scenes' endings felt a little premature or abrupt, so there would be this merging effect that would help it transition into the following scene. It's acceptable, but as I said a little noticeable due to all the mastery surrounding it.

The voice acting was outstanding by each one of the three leads, but I have to give special props to Tom Noonan who was voicing everyone else. He ably conveyed the different characters distinctively and with the appropriate type and amount of emotions behind each one of them. It made what could've felt like a gimmick run seamlessly for a while without ever becoming apparent. You have Bella with hesitance and fear of getting hurt once again by Michael, say to him, I don't know, and her tone alone communicates the history of hurt she's been through, all thanks to the talent behind the voice. Instead of having each actor do their own separate session, which is the most common methodology, Kaufman and Johnson decided to get their small cast of three together, and run through the script's entirety. This intimate way of working translated very well to the screen, add to that all the breathing and different mouth noises it brought along with it which were all purposely kept and animated, along with the actors' actions and body language throughout these recorded sessions.

A final fun tidbit I'd love to share would be that the form and faces of these puppet characters actually came from real life people. Michael is Duke Johnson's ex-father-in-law, Lisa is some random woman one of the producers found at a bar one night, and most importantly, everyone else's face was a photoshopped combination of crew members visages, very fitting and complimentary to the film's themes.

Back to the movie's narrative. It's time for Michael's public speech, and I can't tell you how many times in my life I've quoted parts of it in numerous different situations. It's full of soundbites. While it's nothing new as a concept or in its content, it still plays as a great climax after the accumulation of all the emotional turmoil and drama that's been built up to that point. It's a heartbreaking meltdown, sometimes even painful to watch, especially whenever we pan towards Lisa's reaction shots as he declares he has lost his love.



The ending wraps everything up nicely and gives a whole new context to the entire story. As Michael gives his son a gift upon his return, the same Japanese toy from the sex shop, semen starts dripping out of it, and all of the sudden, it clicks! The fact that we meet Lisa immediately after Michael buys the toy. The identical scar on both of their faces. The doll's singing being voiced by the same actress as Lisa's, who mind you states earlier on how much she "obviously" loves Japanese. Them not even at least talking about protection during the sex, probably because it's irrelevant, and Michael was ****ing a sex toy the entire time. So was Lisa ever real? She must've been. We even get the entire next scene from her perspective only. Did she have sex with Michael though? I don't believe so. And so that brings forward the reliability of everything and anything we witnessed in that hotel room. Did the switch from reality to fantasy happen before or after? Was it when Lisa fell on her way to Michael's room? Was it when she asked to leave? Or is it all too mixed up to definitively determine.

The ending shot is possibly the only image that truly reflects reality as it is. We see Lisa and Emily traveling in their car, both with their own unique voice and face, which gives an oomph similar to Lisa's first introduction. We've been stuck with the same three visages for an hour and a half, so it naturally feels like such a relief to finally see an actual different character. Lisa understands Michael's reasoning for leaving her and can probably explain it away as "wife, children, friends...he can't just give all of that up for me", but at the same time she doesn't understand his reasoning. How can someone be so enthusiastically crazy about her, overwhelmingly loving one second, then completely cold the next. Must've felt like all of her ideal hopes and fantasies came true for that night, and disappointingly dissipated the next morning, like a dream. On another note, I do believe it would've been much better in this final scene to have Lisa not wear that scar, confirming it was Michael's projection all along.

The end credits roll along with a piece of music that pretty much summarizes the story we just witnessed and unveils more details that might not have been as outwardly visible at first glance. It sheds a little more light on what exactly Michael doesn't like about the people, describing them as "cowards full of fear". It also puts in question Lisa's existence, with lines such as In a dream you came and held my hand, Our love was perfect in that sphere...No I've never met you my sweet dear, And my friends they say you don't exist. I recommend re-listening to the whole song and checking out its lyrics, it's quite informative actually. Speaking of songs, I forgot to mention how much Michael loves listening to the Flower Duet from Lakmé, an opera that tells the tale of a forbidden love affair that meets a very similar fate to the one depicted in this film. Go figure.

The end is built into the beginning. The end credits continue rolling while repeating and muddled chatter is heard in the background. Our main character is back to exactly the same state he started in. This is my favorite movie by Kaufman, no this is one of my favorite movies of all time. A few of the director's films can feel too bloated and overloaded, *cough* Synecdoche, NY *cough*, but Anomalisa manages to successfully balance his best qualities. The same emotional complexity and intelligent storytelling is present here as always, but it's with absolute control, reservedness, and precision. I haven't even mentioned the dry humor or the funnier sides of the movie. Unlike in Adam's Apples, the comedy never draws attention to itself, with the characters having just enough pop to them that makes the hilarity naturally and awkwardly develop. And the writing overall is always thinking of witty ways to communicate even the most basic happenings in different shapes and forms.

__________________
"A film has to be a dialogue, not a monologue — a dialogue to provoke in the viewer his own thoughts, his own feelings. And if a film is a dialogue, then it’s a good film; if it’s not a dialogue, it’s a bad film."
- Michael "Gloomy Old Fart" Haneke



movies can be okay...
Phoenix and Okay are competing over who writes the longest reviews.
Haha sorry, couldn't just give the Anomalisa a regular write-up.

Goldfinger is next for me, after that probably Stroszek.