For Reel

Anomalisa (2015)
January 7, 2016, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman
5 Stars
AnomalisaTo watch a Charlie Kaufman film is to rediscover cinema; so uncompromised are his visions that one gets the thrill of occupying a foreign headspace. If his scripts are unified in discussing male loneliness and narcissism–peppered with blunt metaphors and dry, absurdist humor–they also show a consistency in the evocation of alienation and loneliness. These motifs evade the too-easy “you just get me!” reflex by playing as appropriately idiosyncratic (oftentimes great films are about one person’s conception of a feeling, not a universal concession). Anomalisa is perhaps Kaufman’s most narratively “simple” feature in that it could be easily whittled down into a fairly breezy short story, but it is also his most devastating and critical. Michael Stone (David Thewlis) isn’t meant to be a man the world simply doesn’t understand, but quite the opposite. Kaufman understands that to be lonely is to lack a fundamental instinct to “fit in” as opposed to feeling betrayed by the world. That the stakes are presented aurally adds a new dimension to Kaufman’s oeuvre and even to contemporary American cinema–if filmmakers often concern themselves with soundscapes, dialogue itself isn’t regularly conceived of in terms of its very sound, how one projects their voice and how others respond to it. With Michael’s listening limited to hearing one cadence (the voice of Tom Noonan), Kaufman suggests that he’s so preoccupied with his own misery that he is literally unable to hear those around him. With this device, Kaufman involves a too-often neglected aspect of storytelling for his thematic means, showing his growth as an artist who considers every aspect of storytelling.

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