ANIMA - Review

A surprisingly cogent example of what society loses when efficiency is a primary goal. 

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This is a review for the Paul Thomas Anderson short film ANIMA. For a review of the album ANIMA by Thom Yorke, click here.

2019 is already an incredible year for visual albums. So far, we’ve been treated to an entire Beyoncé concert film, an exceptional short from The National directed by Mike Mills, and now, Paul Thomas Anderson alongside Thom Yorke. ANIMA, the title of both Yorke’s new album and a short film inspired by it, is a combination of the storytelling elements that protruded from I Am Easy To Find, as well as the rigorous dance regiments choreographer Damien Jalet assembled for 2018’s Suspiria remake. 

While ANIMA -the album- sees Yorke stepping into better and brighter pastures, the film is PTA at his lived-in best. A consistently blue color scheme, lense flares; these are par for the course for the acclaimed director, but they most clearly recall Punch-Drunk Love. ANIMA calls for quick cuts, long tracking shots, and brain-bending choreography that would confuse those involved, let alone the viewers, and the bonkers 2002 drama is just the right film to draw from. Yorke is seen in bland grays, those around him conforming to some kind of duty that strips them of their individuality and desire for authentic connection, just as Barry Egan yearned for some kind of break in his monotony.

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Jalet’s choreography controls the narrative of ANIMA. Music is a background, but the emotive shoulder shrugging on the seats of a train and soulless marching up an escalator make the deepest connections to novels like 1984 and Brave New World. Anderson and Yorke’s world is made up of missed connections, chances to communicate that are abruptly stopped by the rigors of efficient life. Yorke, playing himself, attempts to deliver a package to a woman he sees on the train, his real-life partner Dajana Roncione. In the process, he is stopped by faceless cogs, glides over barriers, and wanders through massive spaces with projections lining the walls. If there’s any one mood the imagery captures, it’s an oppressive one. Contradicting the popular assumption that Yorke makes sad or hopeless music is a gleam of opportunity; Yorke and Roncione are able to embrace, and the joy on Yorke’s face isn’t one of oblivious soma: It’s a genuine reaction. 

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In his collaborations with Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson has done an excellent job bringing his own tastes to the artist, rather than letting them guide his vision. ANIMA, both the film and album, rely heavily on Yorke and producer Nigel Gogdrich; Anderson is playing support for once, and doing so with subtle nods as well as a willingness to collaborate on a video that relies entirely on dancing as its mode of language. The beauty of ANIMA then becomes the cogs, those working in all avenues that make it possible: Yorke’s ever-longing stare, Anderson’s use of light, Jalet’s abrasive choreography, they prop each other up to form a digestible statement on missed connections, the value of authentic relationships, and what it would be worth to lose them. If the album is about anything, it’s just that: Authentic connection, and Anderson’s film is an illuminating picture of what that looks like in the mind of the Radiohead frontman.