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Existential puppet love story is April Art Film (no fooling!)

Vashon Film Society presents Academy Award nominated “Anomalisa,” a quirky animated tale from the fertile imagination of writer-director Charlie Kaufman, on Friday, April 1 at 9:30 pm at the Vashon Theatre.
Kaufman, the inventive screenwriter of “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” has teamed with co-director Duke Johnson, to bring this tender and strange stop-animated story about a lonely man’s existential crisis to the big screen.

Motivational author Michael Stone (voiced by actor David Thewlis) is on a speaking tour and has arrived in Ohio to hawk his best-selling customer service tome “How May I Help You Help Them” to the masses.

But we discover that the man charged with delivering inspiring wisdom from the podium of the hotel ballroom is in need of inspiration himself. Movie viewers will soon notice that everyone Michael encounters at the hotel speaks in the same monotonous tone. Indeed, almost all other characters are voiced by actor Tom Noonan, and this story telling device brings Michael’s suffering from Fregoli syndrome – the paranoid belief that everyone’s the same person out to get him -- to crushing life.

Weighed down by depression, and with his marriage on the rocks, Michael reaches out to a Lisa, a bubbly customer service rep in his audience (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh). A romantic encounter blooms, and (fair warning) there are R-rated acts of intimacy, stop-motion style.

Can puppets do justice to this haunting tale of existential crisis? Film critics seem to think so, heaping praise on this surreal little film fable. Hot Press columnist Roe McDermott wrote, “In Anomalisa, a few puppets and a minuscule budget somehow create an entire universe reverberating with life’s biggest questions.”

VFS invites cinema lovers to Friday’s screening of “Anomalisa”, one show only, at 9:30 pm. The Society’s First Friday Art Film Series showcases independent, foreign and documentary films once a month on Gallery Cruise Fridays. Admission to the screening is by donation.