Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' in Venice is animation: for adults

Tue Sep 8, 2015 10:14am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Director Charlie Kaufman's "Anomalisa", shown at the Venice Film Festival on Tuesday, is a stop-motion animation film shot with puppets that is full of laughs, tenderness and more than a touch of the surreal.

But with an explicit sex scene between two of the puppets about halfway through, it won't be one for the whole family.

Kaufman refuses to discuss what his films or screenplays are about, but he and co-director and animation specialist Duke Johnson told Reuters in an interview they can live with the U.S. R-rating the film got because of the sex scene. It means viewers under 17 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

"We're fine with that ... I mean we wanted to do it in a way that was emotional because immediately people think puppets having sex is a joke," Kaufman said in Venice, where the film is competing for the top Lion d'Or prize.

"You know 'Team America' did it and it was done for a joke and ... it doesn't fit with our story to be that. It's an emotional moment ... so we worked really hard to make it that, to make it real and sensitive."

Kaufman, who wrote the screenplays for "Being John Malkovich" and "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", has not been a presence in the cinema since he made his directorial debut with the highly regarded but quirky "Synecdoche, New York" (2008).

He is making his return with this 90-minute film focusing on a motivational speaker named Michael, who flies into Cincinnati from Britain on a soul-sapping business trip.

Suffering from the type of identity crisis for which Kaufman characters are famous, Michael meets up during his one-night visit with an old flame, who has never gotten over him dumping her, and a woman named Lisa, who has come to hear him speak and who gives Michael new inspiration for life.   Continued...

Directors Duke Johnson (L) and Charlie Kaufman (2nd L) pose with cast members Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan (R) during the photocall for the movie "Anomalisa" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, northern Italy September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini