This was a weird thought I had at the weekend while watching Anomalisa. For those of you that don’t know this film, it is an animated film staring puppets about a man deeply troubled by his ordinary middle-aged existence. The film starts with the man travelling to Cincinnati by plane for a sales presentation. He seems distracted. There’s a lot of detail about his journey and how dull it is. On his way he’s remembering the end of an old love (Proust would be proud). He arrives at his hotel and phones his wife. The rest of the film unfolds with a fairly ordinary narrative which facilitates a weird, quirky inspection of human nature, desire and imagination. It is an also exploration into the repetitious nature of life (why it appealed to me of course) and what happens when the repetitiousness is challenged by a chance encounter.
The film is funny, dark and witty. However, there is one particular scene in the film I found really, and surprisingly, hard to watch, and it is that scene that forms my weird thought. At the ripe of age of 45 I have seen people jiggy jigging on TV and in films many times. I don’t have any issues with jiggy jigging on TV. Nor do I have issue with it in real life. It can be rather pleasant. It’s not a strange or exotic thing to do or see. This is why I was completely taken surprise by my abject reaction to puppets getting down and dirty on screen. It was odd. I struggled to watch. I was cross with myself for my reaction.
Being the deep thinker that I would like to think I am (deeply), I had to analyse this of course. It bothered me greatly. I’m not a prude. My first thought was: perhaps I really am a prude! I was not happy. I’m so not a prude, I told myself. I’m really not! But then, I thought some more. And one element that divided this film from, say, 9 1/2 weeks, is (yes, it is obvious to you reading this), that it is animated and 9 1/2 weeks stared real people (and a fridge full of food). It seems, I don’t like puppets having sex.
But that’s not quite enough. There must be more. Then I realised what it must be. I connect animated visual entertainment with films designed for the under 12s. The reason why I felt so uncomfortable was that it was like Sherriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear getting down and dirty in the toy box, or Shrek and Mrs Shrek on their wedding night finding out where each other likes to be touched.
However, there was one more element to the love making in this film that I found quite odd. And this added to my reaction. This element was that the sex wasn’t at all romanticised. The puppets did it like real people in the real world. It was clumsy and chunky. It wasn’t all stars in the sky. It was actually not that exciting.
My funny reaction to puppet sex besides, I loved this film. It is existential to the core. It’s about the paradox of loneliness while being surrounded by people. It is also graphically real (not just in the sex scene) but in the depicting of human nature and human feelings about love, sadness, passion, post-coital despair, reality and boredom. It is gritty.
It is both enjoyable and scary. It is light and depressing. So it is a film of contradictions. It also questions the validity of the narrator’s voice. How much of it is real? How much of it is in his mind? There’s one point in the film when you come to realise you may have been completely duped and the story thus far was all in his head. But then shortly after that, it seems that you’ve been duped again, and it is real after all. The film switches between the two. It keeps you on your toes. It is deeply melancholy yet very funny.
Despite my odd reaction to realistic puppetry sex which, I bet, cound win over the videos from Swallow Salon even, I want it to go in my top 50 films of all time chart. I think I loved it even more for my cringe at the sex.
Puppets can do it if they want. Free love to the puppets, I say!