Friday, October 23, 2015

24th Philadelphia Film Fest, Day 1: "Anomalisa" shines as opener!

Yay, the Philadelphia Film Festival has officially started!

After weeks since announcing the fest's lineup the anticipation can finally start to dissipate as local cinephiles can start their marathon moviewatching.

The festival's opening night activities appeared to go off without a hitch, and what a fabulous event that sounded like. The red carpet, the party, and all sorts of luxuriation that comes with it.

It started off with two screenings of "Anomalisa", the award-winning, stop-motion animation film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, at the Prince Theater at 6 and 8:30. There seemed to be a flood of interest for the 8:30 screening since it was announced that Kaufman and Johnson would be in person to have a Q&A segment after that showing of their film, and they would be honored with the fest's artistic achievement award. Of course there were email updates saying this screening was sold out, rush tickets were available and blah blah blah.

I had opted for the 6 p.m. screening, but was asked, the night before the opening, if I wanted to change my ticket to 8:30. Perhaps they purposely overbooked that showing and then eased up at the last minute.

On any note, I got to the Prince around 5:30 to wait in what I was expecting to be a really long line for us peasant, non-PFS-member ticket holders. Surprisingly, all lines were considerably short, and the theater turned out to not be sold out, probably two-thirds full, if that. Can't say the same scene existed upon leaving the theater...

After some brief opening comments from the Philadelphia Film Society's executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt and festival artistic director Michael Lerman, the viewers were treated to something the festival always harps on: seeing something we'll never forget.

Granted, I didn't know what "Anomalisa" was about before that night, just that it was stop-motion but that's it. Turns out to have been a very special film about a man named Michael Stone who goes to Cincinatti as the main speaker for a customer service conference. Using it as an escape from his life and gateway to something more, Stone strikes up a friendship with one of his fans, Lisa, who forever changes who he is and what he wants to be.

"Anomalisa" was so poignant and endearing to relationships and how we interact with people. Stone is a heartbreaking character in that he seems so distant from the start, but all he wants is to have a connection. Can he have both? Can we have both? It all culminates to an enriching experience that has Kaufman's signature written all over it. So weird, so hopeful, so beautiful. Simply point. It proves that animation can be an effective tool in depicting something that would be.

Leaving the theater and seeing the packed lobby full of patrons, and long ticket lines outside, I could tell they were excited to see this film, and I couldn't wait for them to.

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