Anima ★★★★½

“ANIMA,” the rapturous and spellbinding Paul Thomas Anderson “one-reeler” that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke (and Netflix) have commissioned to help promote his new album of the same name, feels as essential as anything the “Phantom Thread” director has ever done. At least on first blush. It’s also, in its own beguiling way, the next logical step in what has become one of recent history’s most rewarding partnerships between a filmmaker and a group of musicians. This 15-minute short is nothing less than a dream come true.

Yorke — now four LPs deep into a twitchy and feral solo career that includes the score for Luca Guadagnino’s recent “Suspiria” remake — has long alternated between raging against the madness of the modern world, and surrendering to it in some kind of narcotic stupor. One song offers a snarling “fuck you” to the drone-like middle managers who turn their corporate offices into dystopian fiefdoms (that would be the chorus of “Karma Police” insisting “this is what you get / when you mess with us”), while the next is a spoken-word list of all the ways that society has numbed itself into a somnambulent daze: “Fitter, happier… Regular exercise at the gym… A safer car… Sleeping well (no bad dreams).”

For as often as Yorke is (mis)characterized as the poster boy for digital paranoia, the most common motif in his songs isn’t fear so much as it’s the tension between freaking out and falling asleep. More often than not, that tension is expressed with a sarcastic edge that makes it hard to rest easy. From the title of “(Nice Dream)” to “Standing in the shadows / At the end of my bed” on “Kid A” to the way Yorke sneeringly interrogates Iraq War-era politicians on “2+2=5” (“Are you such a dreamer / to put the world to rights?”) and then bleats “I’m gonna go to sleep / And let this wash all over me” four tracks later, Radiohead’s first six records can be heard as an uneasy wake-up call from a self-protective slumber — a futile attempt to wish away the nightmare. “I’m not here. This isn’t happening.”


But things grew confusing after that, as the future that Yorke had been fretting over finally arrived and the line between sleep and waking life started to blur. That’s when Radiohead, whose music videos have a reputation for being as restless and brilliant as the songs that inspired them, commissioned Paul Thomas Anderson to help them see the second proper single off 2016’s “A Moon Shaped Pool.”

The “Phantom Thread” director’s gorgeous six-and-a-half-minute video for “Daydreaming” didn’t try to sort things out so much as it disintegrated the last vestiges of linear thought, the clip following Yorke as he quizzically walks through doors that separate a series of disconnected spaces (a pharmacy opens into a house opens into a beach) and end up leading to a cave atop a snowy mountain. At the time, it was the most palpable visualization of the harrowing unreality — and latent sense of hope — that’s baked into the grey matter of Yorke’s songwriting. As of now that past is all just prelude.

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