The Washington Post

ANIMATION OF THE DAY: Line for line, PBS’s Philip Seymour Hoffman short is a poignant gem

WE HERE at Comic Riffs are longtime believers, of course, in the animated interview — whether we’re rapping-with-and-rendering Stan Lee or Neil Gaiman, Lynda Barry or Congressman John Lewis.

And as a fan of the form, Comic Riffs appreciates the artistry over at PBS Digital Studios, where the “Blank on Blank” series pairs recorded interviews with new cartoons.

Even for the excellent “Blank on Blank” — whose greatest hits include David Foster Wallace, Jim Morrison and Johnny Cash — today’s new video is particularly illuminating and poignant. The piece is titled “Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness,” and in his conversation with Simon Critchley — recorded live in December of 2012 at New York’s Rubin Museum of Art — the Oscar-winning actor talks of personal demons and universal truths in a way that shades more telling and perhaps eerie in light of his accidental-overdose death this past February.

Hoffman says he doesn’t equate pleasure with happiness, stating that he “kills pleasure” to the point of displeasure and that “there is no pleasure that I haven’t actually made myself sick on.”

The raspy-voiced, oft-laughing actor goes on to describe the practice of meditation as “coming right up to the lip of death,” and concludes that “learning how to die … is therefore learning how to live.”

The live audience’s laughter — as crowd members seem keenly attuned to the charismatic performer’s observations — takes on a darker patina now, postmortem.

Mostly, the clip is an artful, five-and-a-half-minute reminder of just how incisive the troubled Hoffman could be — all while baring elements of himself that endear and enchant in their raw honesty:

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.



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Michael Cavna · June 1, 2014

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