Philip Seymour Hoffman returns in aching animated short

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We’ve all been there. Someone passes away, and later you find an audio tape with their voice on it, or spot them in the background of a home video. For a moment, they’re with you again.

Fans of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman will always have his movies — but now a two-year old interview with the actor, who died in February at age 46, has gotten new life as an animated short.

The five-and-a-half minute video is part of the Blank On Blank series produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios. The brainchild of producer David Gerlach and animator Patrick Smith, the program uses old audio recordings from journalists as fodder for a surreal, sometimes silly, but often poignant animated story.

Hoffman’s Q&A was conducted at the Rubin Museum of Art on Dec. 22, 2012 with moderator Simon Critchley. The topic: Happiness. By now we all know about Hoffman’s struggle with drug addiction, a battle that ultimately cost him his life. So some of what he says in the video has an eerie, unsettling prescience.

“I think I kill pleasure. Like, I take too much of it in, and therefore make it un-pleasurable — like too much coffee, and you’re miserable,” the actor says. “I do that to pleasure often. So I don’t … There is no pleasure that I haven’t actually made myself sick on.”

There’s no doubt he was talking about more than coffee. Hoffman was fairly open about his substance abuse struggle, and had remained clean for many years before relapsing.

What this video reveals is a man fully aware of his excesses and darker impulses, and both the yearning and the loss of control that made them dangerous. If anything, it only makes his loss more tragic. But there is a bittersweet quality to the video, too. Despite whatever pain Hoffman fought, there was a joy to the man — an equally strong yearning to reach beyond his own shadows.

It’s hard not to smile when the animated Hoffman becomes a child, standing alongside the cartoon representations of his own children. I’ve written about his relationship with fatherhood before, and this interview showcases similar sentiments the actor had about his family. We’re never one thing. Happy, sad … we’re usually both at the same time. It’s just a question of which side is winning the tug ‘o war.

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