For a taste of something different in the dire moviegoing month of January, look no further than “Anomalisa,” Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s melancholy stop-motion oddity about one lonely narcissist and the damaged woman he encounters one night at a strange hotel in Cincinatti. Like any of Kaufman films, “Anomalisa” is packed with devices on top of devices and is practically bursting at the seams with invention. Though it’s noticeably more scaled-down than Kaufman’s previous directorial outing “Synecdoche, New York,” “Anomalisa” still probes at many thematic concerns that have preoccupied Kaufman throughout his long and fruitful career, including self-absorption, alienation and the grey area in between human feeling and the cruel whims of the universe. It’s a truly unique film, and only the most recent example of Kaufman’s polarizing, one-of-a-kind talent.
Kaufman happens to be the most recent guest on “WTF with Marc Maron,” the revealing, highly entertaining podcast hosted by the cat-happy comic, and it’s as great a listen as die-hard Kaufman fans could have hoped for. He opens up about a number of topics, including his background as a comedy writer alongside “Conan” writers like Louis C.K. and Robert Smigel, as well as his working relationship with Spike Jonze (whom he calls a “fantastic collaborator”) and Michel Gondry, who directed his scripts for “Human Nature” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
Kaufman takes Maron through pretty much his entire filmography, from his breakout script “Being John Malkovich” —which, if you can believe it, was apparently conceived as a spec script designed to get the then-unknown writer jobs— through to 'Eternal Sunshine,' which many consider to be his finest script. He also throws more than a little bit of shade at former collaborator George Clooney, who Kaufman claims messed up his script for the screwy black comedy “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”
“That was a movie in which I was not consulted,” Kaufman elaborates. “George Clooney changed the script, he didn’t talk to me during production… we kind of didn’t get [along]. I was invited to see the movie after it was pretty much done. And I wrote a bunch of notes, gave them to him and I guess it was offensive to him.”
Maron is almost always able to get his guests to speak freely, and Kaufman is no exception. He’s also brutally honest in his assessment of his body of work, particularly “Adaptation,” which he had a famously difficult time with, and “Synecdoche, New York,” his morbid, opaque manifesto that split critical and audience opinion right down the middle. But Kaufman doesn’t seem interested in pandering to the film’s critics as he elaborated in the following remarks.
“I think a lot of people are mad at me… I don’t know what people are mad at. I think people were mad that the movie was 'bullshit' or 'pretentious'… they’re not gonna want to watch the movie again. I don’t know what they’re so mad about,” he said.
Well, you can’t say the guy is shy about speaking what’s on his mind. In addition to his great talk with Maron, Kaufman also joins “Anomalisa” co-director Duke Johnson in another wonderful, informative talk at CBC's "q", in which the two discuss the origins of "Anomalisa" as a radio stage play, the script, and why Kaufman thinks it best to not judge his characters. Check out both the Maron interview and CBC chat with Duke Johnson below.