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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:59 pm 
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Punch Drunk Love and especially There Will Be Blood are the Anderson films I enjoy the most. The earlier work is quite good as well. His last two films, tho', have been to various degrees unsatisfying, with The Master especially pushing so far into obliqueness and abstraction as to hold to no apparent meaning whatever. It's all portent and atmosphere signifying only its capacity to signify. I get the sense Anderson himself had no clear idea of what to make of his characters and their actions, only that they were significant somehow, so he cut out all the connective tissue, surrounded the narrative with a sense of imminent significance, and let the style and atmosphere play on our imaginations. The result is a movie that could mean just about anything with characters who may or may not have any reason for what they do. Inherent Vice, in contrast, is dragged down by the weight of its own mechanics; it's so prolix that it fails to be as funny, or propulsive, or engaging, or nostalgic as the material demands. Rather than a complex tone, it achieves mostly a low-key drift, sometimes lively, but generally subdued so that the narrative complexities aren't further obscured.

There Will Be Blood remains his most successful marriage between an oblique and withholding style and a rich complexity in narrative and character, and so far is Anderson's one permanent movie I'd guess.


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:09 pm 
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Punch Drunk Love might be the most polarizing film he's made. Nearly everyone I know either hates it or loves it. I haven't seen it in a while, but I was surprised that some of the funniest bits were left out of the film. (And I was howling with laughter when Philip Seymour Hoffman hit the pavement in the "uncut" footage of that fake commercial.)


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:11 pm 
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There are things I like about all of PTA's films, but my ranking would go something like this:

1. Punch-Drunk Love
2. There Will Be Blood
whatever


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:47 pm 
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Mr Sausage wrote:
Inherent Vice, in contrast, is dragged down by the weight of its own mechanics; it's so prolix that it fails to be as funny, or propulsive, or engaging, or nostalgic as the material demands. Rather than a complex tone, it achieves mostly a low-key drift, sometimes lively, but generally subdued so that the narrative complexities aren't further obscured.

This is about the most accurate, densely rich criticism I've read of the film (that I agree with, that is), so take a bow if you see fit to do so.

Anyway, I'm gonna do this because this got moved and nothing means anything anymore:

01. The Master (This has grown in my esteem gradually but profoundly, to the point where it may be my favorite film, period - I think about it all the time.)
02. Punch-Drunk Love
03. Boogie Nights (The rare gem that's better than the influences it's typically dinged for having - it's now so clear to me how much better it is than, say, Goodfellas.)
04. There Will Be Blood
05. Magnolia (Probably would be higher with a re-edit. Anderson was too attached to stuff like the kid from the jettisoned "worm" plotline, say - interesting that he could avoid this under-editing in Boogie Nights, but not in Magnolia. Think he was too moon-eyed for the idea of being able to say his film was 3 hours long when it really could have lost around a half hour [even 10 or 15 minutes] and been better for it.)
06. Hard Eight
07. Inherent Vice (Easily his worst film in my book just by virtue of being furthest away from his plotting and dialogue, which is under-heralded, being that it's every bit as great as his visual aesthetic. See also: that other Anderson guy, who probably wrote his worst script adapting Roald Dahl.)


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:53 pm 
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Mr Sausage wrote:
I get the sense Anderson himself had no clear idea of what to make of his characters and their actions, only that they were significant somehow, so he cut out all the connective tissue, surrounded the narrative with a sense of imminent significance, and let the style and atmosphere play on our imaginations. The result is a movie that could mean just about anything with characters who may or may not have any reason for what they do. Inherent Vice, in contrast, is dragged down by the weight of its own mechanics; it's so prolix that it fails to be as funny, or propulsive, or engaging, or nostalgic as the material demands. Rather than a complex tone, it achieves mostly a low-key drift, sometimes lively, but generally subdued so that the narrative complexities aren't further obscured.


I'd agree with most of this...I eventually found my way into the groovy drift of Inherent Vice but at its worst moments it sags under all that superfluous plot and dialogue.

As for The Master I think I appreciate the film for exactly the reasons you're turned off by it. It's a totally unnerving, lush, almost nausea-inducing (appropriate, given the ocean motif) evocation of the postwar era--almost all style and atmosphere, as you say, but used to sublime effect, as in the hypnotic sequences in the department store for example.

I don't know that Anderson himself really knows what that movie is supposed to "say," and while you could argue that's lazy writing I'm so glad he didn't stoop to some hackneyed thesis about 1950s repression or something else we've seen a million times before. I'd much rather watch something like this, in which various historical/cultural ideas (pop psychoanalysis, faith healing, PTSD/shell shock, etc.) are raised but ultimately left for us to mull over. I can see why many people might also be frustrated because they're set up to expect a more dynamic resolution to the Freddie/Dodd relationship, but for my money Dodd singing "Slow Boat to China" (affectionately? menacingly? romantically? mournfully? all of the above?) to the quivering Freddie is as quietly shattering and bizarre as anything I've seen in an American movie this decade. I also find the performances, cinematography, and score to be staggeringly great, so that helps, too.


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:01 pm 
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So much was placed on the relationship between Freddie and Dodd especially around the release of the film when critics were firing up their initial interpretations, but now it just makes me think about how terribly sad it is that time moves in a straight line toward death no matter what any of us try and do about it.

It's wonderful and strange that beginning to write what likely started as a scathing critique of L. Ron Hubbard resulted in something oddly sympathetic toward his existential sadness, instead of a scolding critique of his baffling avoidance of it (in the form of Dianetics, Scientology, etc).


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:10 pm 
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Are you referring to death vis a vis Dodd's theory of past lives?

EDIT: Thanks for clarifying in your post.


Last edited by ianthemovie on Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:21 pm 
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Yes, and Freddie Quell's being essentially broken by nostalgia for his past. Those two characters are both yearning for a way to live lives that exist outside of the time and space that they're in, both in very unusual and self-destructive ways. Lancaster Dodd likely wants very badly to be correct about the contents of his snake oil though he knows he never will be, and Freddie Quell's beverages of choice are designed to damage his brain just enough to live through another day.


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:22 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
mfunk9786 wrote:
See also: that other Anderson guy, who probably wrote his worst script adapting Roald Dahl.

Hey! I love Mr. Fox. Maybe the other two Dahl adaptations (BFG and Witches), but I love that film.
I'm still curious to read Inherent Vice (and every other Pynchon) and while I can see why people dislike it (its even more abstract than The Master I'd say) I really do like it. I also think the further away from the 90s big ensemble movies we are the more I see how Boogie Nights and Magnolia are Anderson through and through. I don't think there's a title card I like more than Night's Era change to the 80s

Also I'm surprised at the complete shunning of Junun. I actually saw Shay and the band sans Greenwood live and it was every bit as magical as that film


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:25 pm 
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I haven't seen Junun. Messing around with Mubi was never an option because I would prefer to just keep away from that site altogether if I can help it, my [source redacted] copy I had around that time would not play on my television via flash drive, and I never saw it released via a more traditional channel. Would not consider it one of his feature films for a ranking like this, however, either way.


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:30 pm 
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I had quite a bit of downtime so I watched a good portion of Punch-Drunk Love. I think it's been over a full decade since I've seen it, and it's still a mixed bag for me. The single-take phone call/extortion scene is brilliant. But everything else seemed all over the place. When Hoffman makes his entrance, he's wonderful, but then Brion's score comes in and undermines the performance. It's an irritating clutter, and it's a surprise considering how much I've enjoyed his work on the "original" version of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine and especially Kanye West's Late Registration. The party scene doesn't quite work for me - I like the idea of it, but some of it is too mannered and other aspects of it are perfectly executed (lighting is perfect, one of the film's strong suits). Just about everything in this film is something to love or hate, which I guess is quite an accomplishment.


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:31 pm 
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The more times I watch The Master, I more I see the sublime simplicity of it: the attempt to subdue the animal in us by reaching for the spiritual/intellectual. What comes across so sad about the theme (and it's inherent in the L. Ron Hubbard model) is that the animal nature of Freddie is far more honest than the pretensions of Dodd. In the end, Freddie has learned just enough to be able to curtail his anger and feel more comfortable in his own skin whereas it's clear that Dodd feels trapped by the falsity of his aspirations (more or less what "mfunk9786" said above).


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:55 pm 
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Mr Sausage wrote:
His last two films, tho', have been to various degrees unsatisfying, with The Master especially pushing so far into obliqueness and abstraction as to hold to no apparent meaning whatever. It's all portent and atmosphere signifying only its capacity to signify. I get the sense Anderson himself had no clear idea of what to make of his characters and their actions, only that they were significant somehow, so he cut out all the connective tissue, surrounded the narrative with a sense of imminent significance, and let the style and atmosphere play on our imaginations. The result is a movie that could mean just about anything with characters who may or may not have any reason for what they do.

As others have said, this is actually exactly what I like most about the film and it's not easy to do well. There is a certain real mastery (sorry) observable in that which I think is much of what continues to compel fascination with it (same might also be said for Mulholland Drive though I don't share the enthusiasm for that one). That its meanings are effectively irreducible while still being guided or regulated seems very much like a major accomplishment to me.

Mr Sausage wrote:
Inherent Vice, in contrast, is dragged down by the weight of its own mechanics; it's so prolix that it fails to be as funny, or propulsive, or engaging, or nostalgic as the material demands. Rather than a complex tone, it achieves mostly a low-key drift, sometimes lively, but generally subdued so that the narrative complexities aren't further obscured.

And again I love this film too for much the same reason as with The Master and for its sharing of many of the same or similar properties and qualities, especially its inventive and experimental aesthetic strategy. In fact, I think it functions much like Lynch's recent Twin Peaks in that the emphasis is far more upon the aesthetics and the formal experimentation than the narrative.

Mr Sausage wrote:
There Will Be Blood remains his most successful marriage between an oblique and withholding style and a rich complexity in narrative and character, and so far is Anderson's one permanent movie I'd guess.

By "permanent" do you mean lasting beyond the rest as a likely consistent reference point in film culture? If so, in large part I think I can see how that could be. It isn't as opaque as the later work for sure which, I guess, would be discouraging or off putting to some (if not indeed forbidding).

As to listing PTA's best or even my favorites (if those can ever be entirely disentangled) I honestly don't think I could do it and that's not some cheap cop out. I really don't think I could as I love them all but often for very different reasons. They are all very different of course but equally great as far as I'm concerned in terms of what is accomplished (I rewatched Hard Eight a few months ago and was stunned by just how good that is).


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 Post subject: Re: Paul Thomas Anderson
PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:21 pm 
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John Cope wrote:
As others have said, this is actually exactly what I like most about the film and it's not easy to do well. There is a certain real mastery (sorry) observable in that which I think is much of what continues to compel fascination with it (same might also be said for Mulholland Drive though I don't share the enthusiasm for that one). That its meanings are effectively irreducible while still being guided or regulated seems very much like a major accomplishment to me

I'm a fan of inexplicable or, as you say, irreducible films as well, but I feel to do it successfully, the film can't spend so much time playing at significance while also leaving out the connective tissue or structural framework that makes significance possible. There's a point where a movie can become so oblique and indefinable that it shades into meaninglessness. With such movies, you could really say anything about them without there being a compelling reason to choose one interpretation over another. That's what I feel with The Master: I can say whatever I want and it hardly makes a difference after a while. This is different from, say, Last Year at Marienbad, where one can interpret the scenes in a number of ways, but that multiplicity itself contains the significance. Like with Todorov's concept of the fantastic, where a narrative can be interpreted equally as either supernatural or not (eg. The Turn of the Screw), it is the presence in Last Year at Marienbad of multiple competing interpretations--the contrast between something being ugly or innocent, memory or lie, fantasy or reality--that contains the significance. Each new interpretation brings one deeper into the mystery. That the film can be read as a suppressed rape narrative or an absurdist expansion of a conventional pick up or a story of thwarted love and nostalgia draws the viewer into a complex emotional state where these ideas are all meant to be held in the mind at once and the failure to resolve is indeed the triumph. In The Master, each new interpretation is just one more dart in the handful you're tossing at the board.

After a while, I felt the mannered obscurantism of the film wasn't hiding a presence so much as disguising an absence. If that had been a theme of the film it'd be alright, but it isn't. The film doesn't seem particularly post-modern or deconstructive; it seems like a traditional character study, just one uninterested in cohering.

John Cope wrote:
By "permanent" do you mean lasting beyond the rest as a likely consistent reference point in film culture? If so, in large part I think I can see how that could be. It isn't as opaque as the later work for sure which, I guess, would be discouraging or off putting to some (if not indeed forbidding).

Yeah, the one I think most likely to last. Admittedly, these kinds of predictions are silly, but there's a ferocity and energy to the movie that I think will carry it through different periods of taste and sensibility.


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