Writer and director Charlie Kaufman has made some of the most unique and interesting movies of the last 20 years. His resume includes Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Synecdoche, New York. To say these movies are cerebral, hilarious, full-hearted, and mind altering would be hyperbole for most movies, but not these. His new stop motion animated movie, Anomalisa is no exception.
The movie follows Michael Stone, voiced by David Thewlis, who is a lonely customer service expert who is in Cincinnati to give a lecture. While staying at his hotel, Michael meets Lisa, voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who he quickly falls in love with. Besides the two lead actors, every other voice in the film is performed by Tom Noonan.
Despite the movie's description, it is anything but mundane. Like other Kaufman films, Anomalisa encapsulates underlying truths of human loneliness and despair while simultaneously being hilarious. The fact that this movie was made with puppets, one frame at a time, 24 frames per second, makes it all the more precious.
Charlie Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson Joined Boston Public Radio Friday to discuss Anomalisa and the painstaking process of making a stop motion animated film.
The script for the film was originally performed in 2005 as a radio play with the same actors. In 2011 Dino Stamatopoulos and Johnson from Starburns Industries, an animation studio, reached out to Kaufman and asked if he would be interested in having his script become an animated film. Kaufman agreed and a Kickstarter was soon created to garner interest and money for the project.
“We were all on our own, under the radar. It wouldn’t have happened with a studio or any other way, it’s completely serendipitous situation,” Kaufman said about their decision to reach out for money on the crowd funding website.
Johonson believes that the marriage of Kaufman’s words and the stop motion animation appealed to fans and was a perfect way to adapt the script to the big screen.
“I think doing it in this format certainly has its own unique quality,” Johnson said. There’s lots of things the animation adds to it. It adds dream-like quality. There’s a certain soulfulness in the style of animation we chose, which is stop motion, which is by nature, a relatively imperfect type of animation,” he said.
One scene that is instilled with the unique dream-like quality that Johnson describes is the soon to be notorious sex scene.
“You know that we were aware that there is something funny to people about puppets having sex, and Team America did it for comedy, and we didn’t want to go down that road. So, we were very careful to make this an emotional experience for the characters and hopefully the audience. That scene took over six months to shoot,” Kaufman said.
The time they spent on the movie has paid off, and the result is a wonderfully strange movie about basic human emotions made with puppets.
Listen to the entire interview with Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson above.