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LI native Charlie Kaufman brings 'Anomalisa' to Hamptons film festival

Charlie Kaufman returned to his native Long Island on Friday to show his new film, "Anomalisa," at the 23rd Hamptons International Film Festival.

It's a rarity in the movie industry -- a stop-motion animated film with an R rating. Equally unusual is the movie's distributor, which is not a small independent but the major studio Paramount Pictures.

"Anomalisa" uses 3-D printed figures to tell the story of Michael Stone (the voice of David Thewlis), a successful but mentally troubled author who thinks he's found love with a fan, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The voices of all other characters, whether men, women or children, are by Tom Noonan.

Kaufman and his co-director, Duke Johnson, brought Noonan with them to a screening Friday night and received warm applause from the audience.

In an interview the next morning, Kaufman, who was raised in Massapequa for his first 12 years, said the film was initially a 2005 sound-play -- just actors reading lines with live music and sound effects. Johnson, a Kaufman fan who worked at the animation studio Starburns Industries, helped convince the writer to turn the script into a film, though Kaufman said Starburns would have to raise the money needed.

"I hadn't been able to get anything financed since 'Synechdoche,' " Kaufman said, referring to his tepidly-received 2008 drama starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A Kickstarter campaign launched by Johnson and others, however, raised enough funds to encourage others to invest in the project. What's more, Paramount picked up the film after a screening at the Toronto film festival and has slotted it for a fairly high-profile release on Dec. 30.

"It proves the point that even though a studio might not be willing to take a risk on financing a movie, that doesn't mean that there are not people that want to see it," Johnson said. "I've been wanting to see a Charlie Kaufman movie for the past seven years."

Kaufman added, "Me, too."

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