‘Anomalisa’ Blu-ray Review: Exploring The Power Of Puppets
The world has too much to say and Michael Stone is sick of hearing the same droning voices over and over again — until he meets Lisa, a self-deprecating customer service representative with a voice that sings above the depressing background noise of Michael’s drab world.
Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa features the voices Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis and Tom Noonan. The stop-motion comedy-drama follows Michael, a married British expat and father of one who is in town to give a talk about his bestselling book on customer service. Michael struggles to come to terms with his past and present relationships and the depressing routine of daily life. The cramped spaces he navigates–an airplane, a taxi, the narrow hotel hallways and bar, a sex shop–contribute to a feeling of both physical and emotional claustrophobia. Life closes in on Michael in more ways than one: through the demands of his bratty son, through the constant probing of his increasingly fed up wife, through his own crippling depression and inability to hear the unique voices of the people he encounters.
Anomalisa is darkly funny, charming, surreal and speaks to the inner existentialist in everyone. It is about longing and hunting for human connections and the sinking realization that those very connections may be shifting mirages. After spending an intimate night with Lisa the day before his big talk, Michael realizes that she too starts to sound like everyone else. The next morning Lisa is confused by Michael’s sudden coldness and change in behavior but learns more about herself from the one night stand than she would have expected.
Shooting ‘Anomalisa’ Was A Labor Of Love
The Blu-ray edition of Anomalisa delivers all the sharp details of Michael’s world that were so painstakingly created by crewmembers in a vibrant fashion. The cacophony of sounds that make up the audio tapestry of Anomalisa also come through clearly. Fans and stop-motion enthusiasts will appreciate the second disc’s extras. Each extra explores a curious question: how can a film so deeply examine the human condition using puppets?
“None of Them Are You: Crafting Anomalisa” features in-depth interviews with the voice actors and crew members about the evolution of the film. Viewers learn that Anomalisa was originally a stage and radio play. Viewers are given a glimpse into how the movie was painstakingly crafted by its tireless crew over the course of three years and all of the roadblocks that come with handcrafting puppets and miniature set pieces to create a different world that almost melted before their eyes at some points. Particularly fascinating was how the crew strived to replicate the subtle ways facial features and body gestures change according to emotion.
“Intimacy in Miniature” focuses on how the love scene between Michael and Lisa was crafted and shot, as well as the difficulties of creating stop-motion sex.
There are also interesting bits about the subtle details that color the world of Anomalisa. Michael, for example, checks into the aptly named Fregoli Hotel in Cincinnati after a hilarious encounter with his asthmatic taxi driver. The Fregoli Delusion is a delusion of doubles and the reason why the film’s protagonist thinks everyone sounds the same. The naming isn’t a coincidence. Kaufman notes that the story behind the film was inspired by his knowledge of the rare neurological disorder.
The morning after he sleeps with her, Michael practically yells at Lisa in the unforgiving glare of the morning light. He asks (himself more than Lisa) “Has anything changed? Has a changed occurred?” While Michael returns to his life as a middle-aged husband in suburbia, the last shot of Anomalisa pans in on an enlightened Lisa, wind whipping through her hair as she drives back home with her co-worker, writing a pleasant letter to Michael on how sometimes the best, most nurturing human connections are also the most fleeting.