January 18, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Posted in 2015 | 1 Comment
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I should say that the audience all around me seemed to hate this film. The woman behind me joked that her friend should pay for her ticket for recommending the movie. The couple in front of me agreed that they had wasted the evening. What can I say about that? Other than that they are wrong. Oh, and Donald Trump is leading in the polls. Just saying… As for me, I have always been compelled by the films of Charlie Kaufman. Even when they don’t exactly work (think “Synecdoche, New York”), they are still more interesting than most movies and, when they do (think “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), they are art. All of his films explore issues of romance and male identity. They all feel deeply personal and often involve men working as screenwriters or playwrights. These men struggle to make emotional connections in a world where identity feels superficial, transitory, illusory. Kaufman seems to keep asking, “who am I? And who are you? And if we don’t know, how can we ever truly connect?” In each of his films, his protagonists get progressively older, from their 30s to their 40s and now, Michael Stone appears to be a man in his late 50s. He has flown from LA to Cincinnati to give a speech about customer service and is facing down an existential terror as he does so. This is Kaufman at his strongest, as he explores a complex and heart-wrenching issue through a world rich in metaphor, visually stunning and often bizarre. Puppets and stop-motion animation are used to created an arrestingly beautiful and fantasmic world., full of incredible nuance: the way rain runs down a taxi windshield, the way a shower door slowly fogs up, the absolutely perfect look of his hotel room and the incredible expressiveness of the faces. Beyond just a gimmick, this technique allows Kaufman the opportunity to explore identity in new ways; there is a reason that there are only 3 voice actors for the whole film. It always feels like there is pessimism at the core of Kaufman’s work but there is also a deep truth.  Michael Stone’s story is such a deeply human one. He is a flawed and, in ways, unlikeable man but he is also one of us, struggling to survive and find meaning. How can you not root for that story?


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  1. […] pleasure for me. Very few movies truly push the boundaries of their genre; to some degree, “Anomalisa” did it last year; “The Act of Killing” definitely did it in 2013. Yet neither is […]

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