Anomalisa

Running Time


Only enough material for a short film, but it's an exceptional short film.
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Reported on 11th of February, 2016

Though all movies should be 90 minutes long, what about the films that can’t be and are anyway? In between the I can’t possibly stand in a bank line and do nothing for 90 seconds, I’d die youTube clips, and the unforgivably three hour long awarders, there exists the long-time dead middle format. After the end of The Twilight Zone, and all other attempted revivals of the anthology format, there’s no way to introduce characters, have them live, and then have them conclude in less than an hour and a half. In between twenty and forty minutes, this is what my friend Bob called ‘an awkward length’, and what I call my revenge against Bob for saying that about my own short film.

Anomalisa

3 February 2016 @ Le Cinema Club 6


$11.80 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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It’s a shame, really, since there are some good ideas that merit such treatment, and no place really to see them. Conversely, there are many bad ideas that will be stretched it out to the absurd lengths that we pay extra to make us feel we got value for money. Most of the time, this amplifies the terribleness in question, à la The Babadook or Black Swan. Anomolisa has only enough material for a short film. Thing is, it’s a really good short film.

The film is filled with what, thanks to the MST3K folks, I call Driving Up To The House. In the schlock days of the 1950s-70s, you had to make that all-important 70-90 minute run-time. As a result films very much without content would include our hero driving for a bit, pulling up to the house, putting it in park, thinking about getting out of the car, getting out of the car, thinking about walking up the door, and so on.

Inherent Vice. There’s another one.

Anomolisa sadly, has quite a few of these scenes. Without the schlock aesthetic, there is the sense that by doing it with puppets we’re supposed to think or feel something profound. We do not. This reaches more sad than anything else proportions during the puppet sex scene. Living as I do in a world that has both Team America and Let My Puppets Come, this comes across, as many moments in the film do, as a kind of art house take on the worst aspect of the South Park sensibility: look what we’re doing…with puppets! I’d be hard pressed to find a difference and I didn’t.

So much to say about the cakes, since I was in the otherwise to be generally avoid city of St. Brieuc (sorry St. Brieuc!). Anomolisa wasn't playing in Rennes for reasons unknown. Puppet fear? I don't know. The cakes? Maison Diener is kind of perfect, dingy, depression salon, with a delicious caramel chocolate raspberry gateau that I had four minutes to eat before running to catch the film. Make that into a metaphor if you dare!

So much to say about the cakes, since I was in the otherwise to be generally avoided city of St. Brieuc (sorry St. Brieuc!). Anomolisa wasn’t playing in Rennes for reasons unknown. Puppet fear? As to cakes, Maison Diener is kind of perfect representation of the city: dingy, depressing salon, with a delicious caramel chocolate raspberry gateau that I had four minutes to eat before running to catch the film. Make that into a metaphor…if you dare!

But you should see it, because contained within is a truly outstanding short. We’re not talking about Twister (the greatest seven minute film ever made! When you cut everything but flying cows!) When it sings, it hits you, and it’s furthermore not immodestly profound.

The story, if you didn’t know, is of a man who sees all other people, including his wife and child, as the same person, played by stop-motion puppets, and voiced by Mr. Tom Noonan. It’s merits viewing for Mr. Noonan alone, who is to this film as Mr. Hugh Laurie was to House or Mr. Johnny Depp was to the Pirates series, or, more relevantly, Ms. Amy Poehler was to Inside/Out. Without these actors, there is no film. He does the voices as himself, no funny pitches or accents, and yet conveys uniqueness about characters who look and sound the same. Tied with Ms. Poehler, this is the film performance of the year.

But beyond that, and giving some credit to Mr. Charlie Kaufmann for finding and casting Mr. Noonan, this is a swell idea, perfectly executed. Minus 60-70 minutes of course. Like many surrealists, Mr. Kaufmann has a knack for revelatory dialog; like Mr. David Milch or Mr. Woody Allen of yore, this is more than ‘people, like say bland stuff that people totally say and like they’re talking and stuff, and let’s ‘fuck’ a lot so that people know that the film was improvised by the actors without any supervision or thought whatsoever’…dialog.

Instead, a single misplaced ‘uh’ or a comment about a mundane haircut rings as an indictment or confession of a character’s soul. Some of the time. When they’re not driving to the house, or waiting for room service in real time.

Finally, there’s the ending (avert your eyes! Also, literally!). Anomolisa is a swell and desperately needed inversion of the soulmate myth. Though certainly one can see it coming: Ms. Jennifer Jason Leigh starts to sound like Mr. Tom Noonan and ruin the spell of love. This would be the inverse that would happen to me, but so be it. It was the only place the film could go. Fine.

But when the film breaks from our lead’s POV for just one brief moment, and shows Ms. Leigh’s perspective that her friend is not, and her world is not populated with, multiple Tom Noonans, it becomes a moving indictment of what might be understood as what happens when American political discourse is applied to squishy love: romantic exceptionalism.

It’s nice bit of movie legerdemain, as we expect that The Only Girl In The World Will Save Him, when in fact, it’s just our lead’s depressingly common conceit that everyone is the same. It was never a condition, even if the movies told us we should make it one.

The Take

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Profits!
Mr. Noonan. Seriously. See it.
$10.00
Ms. Leigh ain’t no poor shakes either.
$5.00
There are some very impressive bits of revelatory word talking.
$10.00
Total Profits
$25.00
Losses!
I love Mr. David Thewlis, despite his slow (not stop) motion fall from grace. Whether by material or ability, he is not so hot here.
$1.00
I like Mr. Kaufmann’s behaviorism, but I miss his jokes.
$3.00
The decision to include a dream sequence in a surrealist film is I believe a first. This does not make it a good.
$2.00
The unnecessary minutes, @ $0.10/minute.
$7.20
Total Losses
$13.20
All running lengths being equal, even as an elongated short, it’s better than pretty much everything else in 2015.

$11.80

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