It’s that time again – time to fill in a few holes in my film knowledge. Until a couple of months ago, my knowledge of Paul Thomas Anderson, considered my many critics to be the greatest auteur working today, was limited. This wasn’t a conscious, choice, I’d just not gotten round to watching much of Anderson’s oeuvre. I had seen THE MASTER, which I didn’t much care for, and INHERENT VICE, which I enjoyed but didn’t understand. Now I’ve watched two of his most highly regarded works (I’ve still got to find time for MAGNOLIA), and this is what I made of them.
BOOGIE NIGHTS 1997) A porn industry melodrama that’s not really about the porn industry. BOOGIE NIGHTS has one of the best ensemble casts of the last 20 years – Mark Wahlberg, Heather Graham, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, William H Macey, Alfred Molina, Don Cheadle – some filmmakers would do unspeakable things to recruit such a talented lineup. People forget that Wahlberg is often a really good actor, none more earnest and natural, and Eddie/Dirk Diggler’s journey from a nobody with a dream to a narcissistic ass, encountering on his way people who are all broken in one way or another, is a compelling one. The confidence in which Anderson styles his breakout film, the conviction with which he discusses the somewhat controversial subject matter not to mention how guides the story from a cheeky romp to a black exploration of the ego is to be marveled at.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) A few films further on and Anderson put together this bona fide masterpiece. His oil epic is grand and gritty and hard-hitting, but also unexpectedly funny and very human. There’s some nice juxtapositions between actual religion and money as a religion, and he opens up a very relevant debate about which holds the real power in the hearts of men. Jonny Greenwood’s score builds from rhythmic to oppressive and back again, adding to the story but stopping short of becoming unenjoyable as a piece of music (which I found with The Master). Probably a good starting point for those uninitiated to Anderson’s body for work – yes it’s long (they’re all long), but it’s got imagery that wouldn’t look out of place in a disaster blockbuster in the first half and weighty drama galore in the second, all held together by a magnetic and terrifying Daniel Day Lewis. Plus it ends on a gag as black as the oil that courses through Daniel Plainview’s veins.
Most pleased I’ve now seen: There Will Be Blood (because now I see why it’s considered one of the best films of the last decade, and it wasn’t anywhere near as depressing as I feared). SSP