Telluride 2015: Charlie Kaufman's Stop-Motion Romance 'Anomalisa'

September 7, 2015


I'm still not sure what to make of it. Anomalisa is a stop-motion animated film co-directed by the genius Charlie Kaufman and animator Duke Johnson. It's sort of Kaufman's attempt at romance, following a depressed main character tired of the mundanity of life around him, delving head first into the theme of identity. Along the way he meets a woman that, for reasons he can't really explain, he's attracted to. She's unique, different than everyone else, there's just something about her. I'm unsure if Anomalisa is simply brilliant, or brilliantly simple, in showing the importance of the connections we make with other people.

As with every Charlie Kaufman film, it's very hard to make sense of it upon first viewing. While there is a story and there are characters that we follow, there's so much more depth behind every moment. There's so many layers to peel back that reveal the truth about how we think. And more often than not, what we're seeing on screen challenges us, the audience, in our own personal ways. Even if we figure it out, there's still more questions. Did this mean that, does this mean this? Maybe the whole point is that we're even asking any questions at all. It's not a watch and forget kind of experience, it's the kind you keep thinking about.

On the surface, Anomalisa is a very simple story. The stop-motion animation work is unlike any stop-motion I've seen before, but is still impressive. The characters are designed to look realistic, but some still feel fake - on purpose. As the film progresses, you start to realize this animation and character design is actually an intimate part of the film itself. At one point, one of the characters starts to dislodge his lower facial piece. No, this isn't an animation mistake, it's one of Kaufman's very nuanced identity crisis moments. So much so that this person is literally losing their face, the most important part of ourselves that makes us identifiable.

The discussions I've been having with friends about this film at Telluride have ranged from - is it really that simple (no way!), to, what does it all mean? How much more is hidden beneath such simple scenes? There's the idea that it's about the way we connect, and then disconnect, from people for such brief amounts of time. Does that mean we should hold onto those people? Maybe. Maybe not. There's another idea that it's about identity, and how our relationships and decisions define our identity. Then there's the basic synopsis that says it's just about a depressed guy who doesn't know what to do and screws up every encounter he meets.

Maybe it's all of that, maybe its none of it. Maybe it's up for every one of us to decide on our own, and figure out for ourselves. Maybe that's what makes for a really intelligent film. Maybe only Charlie Kaufman knows.

Alex's Telluride Rating: 8 out of 10
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Reader Feedback - 15 Comments


So pumped for this. The review sounds promising and like it's classic Kaufman despite the new format.

Terry Craig on Sep 7, 2015

2 wrote and I quote...'by the genius Charlie Kaufman'...really Alex? Genius? Ummm...some might beg to disagree with you on that statement. As for myself, I only know that most aren' Kubrick?

Bo on Sep 7, 2015


Many people are conditioned to think obtuse is some how good. Many times obtuse (READ: novel and confusing) is just bullsh*t by any other name.

DAVIDPD on Sep 7, 2015


Yeah, but its a fun word to say, "Obtuse".

shane willett on Sep 8, 2015


True enough, David.

Bo on Sep 8, 2015


So like a post from Bo.

StormReflection on Sep 8, 2015


Some may disagree, others may agree. Just go around and ask how many people love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He wrote that film.

Alex Billington on Sep 8, 2015


True enough, Alex. Was just havin' a little fun with you tossing out the genius label and all. By the way, I did like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's the only thing of his I've liked. Am I correct in thinking that he did not direct that picture?

Bo on Sep 8, 2015


So you do understand opinions. I guess your original comment wasn't because you're clueless but instead it's because you're a troll.

StormReflection on Sep 8, 2015


Glad to see I'm not the only one that thinks Bo is an insecure troll

NewsGuest on Sep 8, 2015


He did not direct that. Michel Gondry did! But his other films are very intelligent.

Alex Billington on Sep 8, 2015


Ah, Gondry...right. I guess they're intelligent, Alex. They just don't speak to me is all. Kaufman sure is different and goes his own way. I like that about him, but I just don't respond or relate to his work and doubt I ever will. I'm glad that you like them though. Catch this StormReflection guy and his 'intelligent' comments to me. Interesting? Take care and keep up the good work, Alex. I do respect your opinions and reviews on films. Thanks for that.

Bo on Sep 8, 2015


It's called an opinion. There's no mathematical formula for it.

StormReflection on Sep 8, 2015


don't feed the trolls...Bo is the biggest one here

NewsGuest on Sep 8, 2015


Sounds like a pass for me. Thanks for the review AB!!~~~

DAVIDPD on Sep 7, 2015

Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.




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