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TIFF 2015: Charlie Kaufman Redefines Animation in Anomalisa


To say the latest work from filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is groundbreaking would be redundant.

In Anomalisa, which grabbed the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and this week surfaced at the Toronto International Film Festival in a gala, sold-out screening, Kaufman takes stop-motion animation to a whole new, adult level. Much like some of Kaufman's other work, it is certain to divide audiences.

Some audience members asked, "What was that all about?" as they exited the theater, while others enthused it was their favorite film of the year.

Anomalisa was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, collecting more than $400,000. Shortly after its TIFF screening, Paramount Pictures snapped up worldwide distribution rights of the film in a reported seven-figure deal. 

The first think you need to know about Anomalisa is how to pronounce its title: consider it a mashup of the word "anomaly" and the name "Lisa." The second thing you should know is although there are multiple characters in Anomalisa, only three actors are responsible for giving those characters a voice: David Thewlis (Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise) is the voice of Michael, an anxiety-ridden 40-something who meets 20-something Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and falls instantly in love.

The film is less about their relationship than their shared loneliness. Amazingly enough, every other character in the film is voiced, with differing modulation, by Tom Noonan (Manhunter). 

Anamolisa is layered with complexity. If you already love Kaufman's work, you'll love this film. If you appreciate Kaufman's avant-garde style as a groundbreaking artist, you'll find even deeper respect for this writer/director who is widely considered one of the true geniuses of his generation.

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