Anomalisa : A Film Review

Polystyrene People

First to point out is the form of this film being stop motion animation as it will appeal to fewer filmgoers than is ordinarily the case.  I have a complete disregard of any stop motion animation which is not used as an art form and has in its conquest mere figurative artifice or narrative.  Neither extentialist, some claim it is, nor surrealist, some claim it is, it is a far cry from earlier accomplishments of Charlie Kaufmann, this films writer and co-director, such as Adaption (2003) and the existential and surreal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).  Being more than a decade on it is reasonable to assume some levity and self awareness has crept into his film making.  An extension of that mindfulness perhaps but instead we are treated to a narrative containing a hapless middle-aged man whose guru status as a ‘life-coach’ in the marketing world nails gravitas to the floor with sponges.  It is all too ethereal handing over the reins to a stop motion photographer.
We are stuck with objects. It would be entirely unjust to call them characters, whose body texture is of polystyrene cups, whose eyes are innate marbles, dressed in celluloid friendly woolen waxy clothing and dry as dust hair and bodies with the proportions of a stubbed out cigarette butt.  Memorably I have seen stop motion in an awesome form (See end credits) and the difference is these characteristics I’ve described are there, transitional and precious in their beauty when conceived as the vehicle of a piece of brilliant thinking accompanying and delivered through conceptual originality. Here it is puerile and without ANY beauty.
I’m a stranger here myself

Here we have a middle aged man fly in, touchdown, literally, in Cinncinati to attend one of his pleasurable talks on the ideal of customer marketing. Michael played by the artistically compromised David Thewlis who I last saw on a beach in Macbeth, gives it his best moronic nasal drawl throughout.  He conveys the disempowered human face of Michael whose professional acclaim is at odds with ‘real’ life.  Conscious as he is of his, and I presume this is integral to the story and concept of the film, we are to consider the juxtaposition of work and life and our endeavors to make each fulfilling.

From touchdown at the airport, we are treated to a banality which will follow in streams, almost tears, over the next long period of viewing this drab morass and some colour invective is introduced with some witty acerbic dialogue to make us wince even further.  The one liners are predictable as coteries of verbal pack hounds licking the pastry of the films desserts.  The tangibility is there but is thin as the watery appearance of the film.  It is nihilism resplendent in Michael, an aboration as invective is portrayed on almost everyone who is not Michael.
I love airports simply because of the promenade which allows you to become not a different self as a flânuer (Mr Whtes book of the same name is recalled) but to see the human race in its diversity in so far as those who can afford to fly, and if chosen you could change destinations with anyone and visit an entirely different world and probably dissolved set of rules as the person observed with a consequence of seeing a new world occupied by immense diversity. It is momentary but not in Michaels case a rejection, an abnegation on the whole of humanity.
Taken for a ride

From a short ride with a ubiquitous talking taxi driver and one whose ill kept rage is also dishonestly contempted by the author for his gain, to the hotel lobby of Hotel Frogila or Hotel Spendido and not in this Eater Rising period the Hotel Frongoch (the British prison in which rebels were held ; for more realism than Gerry Adams pitiful account on Frongoch and ‘attachment’ to a desperate cause – about 14 ringleaders were killed in the rising and the rest interned for a long period at a time of war when a generation of Irishmen died subsequently at the Somme alongside each other ; we can appraise Hotel Frongoch astutely in ‘Frongoch – the Boiling Pot‘ by Lyn Ebenezer more robustly and eloquently.) 

For the purposes of containment to a film review I have disposed a more interesting critique concerning the rising to the foot of the page and gone all ‘John’ Corwell with it.  JdeC to most.

Michael is about the same in this Hotel as he descends even further into self pity and disintegration mentally as he looses connection in this anonymous ‘hole’ ever semblance of bearing in his life.  His almost but not estranged wife is called on the dial out and his son summoned to the phone with more self cynisism portrayed.  Relentlessly the polystyrene figurines are given thankless roles more driven down in their lack of humanity, except in the authors version of cynical occupants of the world, by voicing women with male voices and with some flex urge given to one of the two women Michael is to encounter at his Hotel.  With his popinjay in mind, or with his pecker making the choice for him he hoists his stand up parrot into the story in a remiss kind of way.  He makes a call out and a call in with opposite results. 

Girls just 

Into the narrative comes a robust diliance constructed out of absurdity and as a vehicle for Michael to get the parrot to shut up.  Lisa who is not the Mona Lisa but for the stories purposes an unconfident adrift young woman ravaged by self doubt and a follower of gurus.  In its orbit is an achievement for Jennifer Jason Liegh to give some uplift to a materially inept scenario through her vocalisation.  She Jennifer portrays the vulnerability which self sacrificing Lisa allows to unfold before Michael whose love is transference of the worst around and is in his mentally fragile place the answer he has ‘been seeking all his life’.  It is a mutual misapprehension which for a moment assuages the pairs real lives.  The song made famous by Cyndi Lauper and covered by many and available in numerous versions by the girl herself features as a sobriquet solemn, soliloquy as a high mass between the by now inebriated souls at sway in bed. A liquorice sweetener and of choice rendition.

It lasts for a brief period and is quickly rounded of with a cigarette and more self coiling. There is a dream sequence which plays on fears in case we didn’t get the gravity of Michaels derangement and his dissatisfaction with the world.  We get therefore the two central trysts in the Hotel, several recipes for cocktails, a nice hotel room service breakfast, a conference display which is less than a success unsurprisingly a homecoming and a minesweeping finale which I’ve forgotten.  
Conclusion ##2
A reality can also reach.
Enjoyable as a discursive journey round cinematic endeavors but otherwise unconvincing and without any insightful new or beauty. The human condition is explored as an individual believing their isolation is endemic, that their plight is to forage a way through deceitful relations with those who love them and whose own lives are a document to their bewildered lives.  It is fairly relentlessly bleakly coruscating with added humour but as a cinematic tale it labours and its mediatative moments are at once bliss and cant. It is a form of artlessness and it may work for you if you suspend the imposition of a stew of polystyrene confection for a dose of garrulous speech making.  It is probably in the nature of public speakers to be given to prolixity so it is given out in a large dose.

John Graham

17 March 2016


Stop motion supreme animation exists!

If you wish to see the memorable stop motion that I love so much it is to be found at the Saatchi Gallery Art Forum.
It is by local artist Jennifer Kidd.   Timewaster.

AHer other stop motion works explore identity and self worth and value.  They convey in their brief time in disproportionate volume much more than the above reviewed film could in my mind.  So much is left for the viewer but the difference here is it is there to be found.

History is a revisitation

History requires us to decline political rhetoric even when and more so when it’s foisted by the idiocy of self ‘proclaimed’ malfunctioning due to mostly birth placement. (an unpleasant diversified childhood – this will bear me out in time – when science makes a more tangible link) Rebels. RD-E finds the same crop up in her book.

Why listen? Anglicised engrandisment surfaces.

Ruth Dudley-Edwards has just had published a prescient study of that historical time which is worth reading. Another aside the intolerable GM avoids is the industrial one. The 1913 workers strike wherein McDonagh and Kettle born circa 1880; I often go on tangents, forgive me, when a storyline prompts it regardless! These men, academicians both allies in the formed Irish volunteers set up to counter the Ulster volunteers whose aversion to the Home Rule Churchill had driven placed them in splendid isolation and paradoxically in ‘Union’. Nothing like belonging to a club that would rather not have you. The only strategic link being to keep out Pseudo communism and ‘German ‘ influence. By heck they have it today in spades except it is dictorial now. From monarchy to market. While Kettle set out to find guns and instead encountered the German Imperialism and Militarism in Belguim he reacted by joining forces to defeat them and survived the Somme.  McDonagh formed a radicalised view of a sense of Ireland markedly different in those times.  He sort of formed a rebel clique and ‘fought’ the Dublin Jewish biscuit factory with kutschpa and the fate was sealed. He was one of the few ‘Rebels’ killed as the British confined their approprium at a time they were facing a greater war and more world shifting upsurge and central governance shift threatening to topple their own self-interests.  
Once upon a time in Ireland.  Role players turn up.  RD-E writes this splendidly as a cause that was not going to happen anytime soon.  Easter or not. Biblical apocalypse beckoned. 

Of the words written by Kettle and McDonogh those selected recently in print by Daniel Mulhall truncating a tale of his views on the pair by summoning endings in that powerful Irish trope of a medium, poetry, as both wrote out to their families and separately obviously in this form eloquently what lay inside their heads connected to their hearts.

Kettle to his daughter days before his death.


“Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,

Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor, –

But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,

And for the secret Scripture of the poor.”
McDonagh also to his daughter wrote 


“In Ireland still the mystic rose

Will shine as it of old has shone.”

Like all gone before their time.  Warriors in words first and foremost, their deeds lacking in noblesse yet called redemptive by those who lived, pursued sacrifice for sacrifice sake like today’s misguided suicide bombers who depart having taken a step beyond the sixties, seventies terrorist car bombs and grotesque destruction of fellow nationals by ‘necessary means.

Locally those responsible still chalk up their faceless humanity as having ‘Support’.  Mandated MM etc.