“There were a lot of penises. They break very easily because they’re tiny,” Duke Johnson told Vulture about the making of “Anomalisa.” Co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, it may riff on the themes we’ve seen from the man behind “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” and “Synecdoche, New York” but, as that quote suggests, it’s all quite different too. It’s a stop-motion-animated movie, very much for adults, which provides a whole new aesthetic for his melancholy milieu, with this story following one existential night in the life of an author who flies to Cincinnati to deliver a keynote speech to the customer-service industry.
In a longer chat with NPR, the duo detailed the process of making the movie, but of course there’s the obvious question — why stop-motion animation? “We think that it allows people to focus and pay attention to things that are mundane in a way that they might not be able to in live action,” Kaufman explained. “You know that everything that you see has been calculated and choreographed, that there’s no accident, that if he drums his fingers against his thigh, that was a choice that we made as filmmakers, and it becomes kind of fascinating because of that.”
Perhaps one of the most talked-about sequences in the film is a sex scene, and the duo were cognizant of making sure it was played straight. “We were aware going into this of ‘Team America‘ and the idea of puppet sex being funny…and certainly [this] scene has gotten a lot of attention. It has been written about a lot, so people are really interested in the idea of puppets having sex,” Kaufman said. “But our goal was to follow Michael and Lisa from the point that they entered the hotel room…to the point where the lights go out and the scene is over as one continuous thing and not betray them by making a joke out of this.
“So really it was a matter of being very hyperaware of what each of them was thinking at each moment leading up to that scene and through that scene,” he continued. “It all had to be choreographed with the intent of it being true and that if there is humor in this scene it comes out of the moments between them that are organic to the characters — the awkwardness of being with somebody for the first time.”
Listen to the full conversation below. “Anomalisa” opens on December 30th.