Ever been in a hotel alone, perhaps for work or some failed romantic liaison and found yourselves cast under a spell of stupendous, timeless alienation and boredom? No? Ok, ever found yourself in a hotel?
Yes. Well then you will see a lot you recognise in the new film from the great Charlie Kaufman, and chances are many of you will be familiar with more than just the beige pastel decor. This film is also the rarest of curiosities a stop motion animation and what's more a stop motion animation for the adults among us.
Playing out the majority of its running time in the Fruegal Hotel in Cinncinatti, we meet depressed middle aged Michael voiced by David Thewlis, a customer service guro in town to give a conferance. Michael we soon discover is unhappily married with a child, a young boy more interested in the presents his father will bring home than the father himself and a wife who, like everyone else, seems to irritate the life out of him, what little life there is. Michael is a man lost in a sea of sameness and blandness. Everyone looks and sounds the same (Tom Noonan doing an impressive job of voicing everyone else), that is until he hears a different female voice through his hotel door and rushes to find her.
Kaufman is the master of the introspective, the American laureate of the depressed and lost, he likes to paint portraits of people lost in a cruel world wherein human companionship and romantic success are doomed to failure and ultimately we are and remain completely alone. Luckily for us Kaufmann does it with constant humour and genuine warmth.
Anyone who has ever loved and lost will find arguably one of the best portrayals of that torture in the Kaufmann penned, Michael Gondry directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Anyone who has ever tried to make a creative mark on the world would see that struggle between art and commerce, amongst many other themes, framed perfectly in Adaptation, this time directed by Spike Jonz, who also, directed Kaufmann's first acclaimed screenplay, Being John Malkovich.
He then turned his hand or eye even to directing, and made the obtuse but exchillerating Syndoche New York, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
That films commercial failure left Kaufmann presumably in a position were he had to crowdfund this film through the Kickstarter website.
So with Michael unable to contain his excitement he knocks on other hotel doors to find this miraculous woman, Lisa, voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh, when he does find her he falls in love straight away, though what might become a comedy of errors in another filmmakers hands here becomes of comedy of fresh or stale rather, hell. What follows is the funniest most satirical sex scene since Team America and the most realistic nervous breakdown/ mid life crisis seen on cinema screens since Woody Allen was polite company and in his neurotic pomp.
The marvel here is how Kaufmann and his co director Duke Johnson, keep it all so watchable - the audience are never bored and the filmmakers have produced each and every frame of this film with love and care.
Stop motion animation is the perfect medium for which to render this most, if I was being unoriginal, Kafka-esque tale, but it's not Kafka-esque, it's not even Kaufmann-esque, it simple is, luminously and beautifully so.
This is one of the most intimate, unusual, touching, funny, sad and true films you will see this year. A masterpiece by any standards.
5 out of 5