**** (out of five)
These days I stay until the end of the credits, not because I want to see if a Marvel movie throws me a bone, but because often end credits give you intriguing insights into a film’s production, from acknowledging tax credits (so that’s why so-and-so was shot in the Isle of Man) to revealing how many stunt people were involved (Mad Max: Fury Road many many; something CGI-heavy like a Marvel movie, less than you’d expect).
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s remarkable animated feature Anamolisa’s end credits reveal that the film is indeed the work of old-school “puppeteers” (stop-motion animators) rather than computer whizzes; they also reveal thousands of thanked patrons who contributed to the film’s production via Kickstarter, which answered my question, “Wow, how in the world did this get made?”
That’s the question because the film is so personal, so unique and so blatantly non-commercial that I can’t imagine anyone who has ever heard the term “bottom line” giving it a dollar. Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Synecdoche New York) maintains a resolutely independent stance, telling the stories he damn well wants to tell, and good on the Kickstarters for letting him.
So Anamolisa won’t be for everyone. It’s certainly not for children, despite being animated. It’s the story of Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), a business author and English expat living in Los Angeles who goes to Cincinnati to deliver a talk. Michael is suffering from some sort of psychological malfunction (he could indeed have the full-blown Fregoli Delusion – google it if you want to go into the film a little armed, don’t if you want to go in cold) and may be in the mood to disrupt, add to or at least spice up his unexpectedly structured life, if just for a night. We’re privvy to that night, set mainly in Michael’s upscale, rather characterless hotel.
While the film has an even and perhaps slow pace, it skips from incident to incident so precisely that I was hanging on each of its movements as though it were an action thriller (and it is so not an action thriller), desperate to see what happened next. Kaufman’s script may be some sort of wonderwork, and the voice performances by Thewlis, Tom Noonan and Jennifer Jason Leigh are perfect and extremely moving. This is a very niche film that may totally entrance the right audience. I keep thinking about it – it got inside me and it’s sticking around. Definitely worth trying if you want something original.