Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson – Movies Spotlight – September 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson, 42, is among the great generation of auteurs to emerge out of the 1990s (filmmakers like: Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, Alfonso Cuaron, Peter Jackson, Kar Wai Wong, and Quentin Tarantino). This month, his new film The Master is set for release. It is has played to high praise and acclaim among most critics (though, some are calling it too experimental), and is among the Oscar frontrunners. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman (a frequent Anderson collaborator, appearing in five of Anderson’s six films) and Amy Adams, the film is about Freddie Quell, a Naval veteran who arrives home disillusioned and uncertain about his future. That is, until he finds a place in The Cause, drawn in by its charismatic leader. Check out the trailer.

Early Career:

Anderson briefly attended Emerson College and New York University before diving into his career, taking a job as a production assistant working on whatever he could – be it television movies, music videos or game shows in LA and New York. Instead of film school, Anderson pooled his money (which amounted to $10,000 set aside for college by his parents, some money he won gambling and his girlfriend’s credit card) and set out to make a short film calling it his college experience. The film was Cigarettes & Coffee (costing $20,000), a short following multiple storylines involving a twenty-dollar bill (something that would become prevalent in Anderson’s early features). He screened the film at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival and was invited to the 1994 Sundance filmmaker’s lab. At the lab, his mentor was Michael Caton-Jones (who was in the prime of his career, just off Memphis Belle and This Boy’s Life and about to direct Rob Roy). Jones saw a lot of talent in Anderson, but not a lot of hands on experience and thus focused his mentorship in that direction. Anderson decided to adapt his short into a feature titled Sydney, signing a deal with Rysher Entertainment. In 1996, he wrote and directed the film, but Rysher executives decided to re-edit it. However, Anderson still had a print of his original cut and submitted it to the Cannes Film Festival where it was screened, receiving acclaim. Anderson was then able to get his version released but he had to retitle it Hard Eight and had to come up with $200,000 to finish it (which was funded by himself and the film’s stars Gwyneth Paltrow and John C. Reilly). Rysher did nothing to promote the film, but even so it was noticed by critics and launched Anderson’s career.

Breakthrough and Creative Control:

During Anderson’s issues with Hard Eight, he began writing a new script in the summer of 1995 based on an early short film he had made called The Dirk Diggler Story. Once Hard Eight was done, Anderson started to circulate the script. New Line Cinema became very interested after the studio’s president Michael De Luca loved the script. Boogie Nights went into production and was released in 1997. The film was a breakthrough hit for Anderson and its stars – momentarily resurrecting Burt Reynolds’s career and serving as the breakthrough for Mark Wahlberg and Julianne Moore (among others). It received three Oscar nominations (two for acting and one for writing). Like Hard Eight but more so, Boogie Nights showed off Anderson’s brilliant ability to present great fully fleshed out characters across a large ensemble. Anderson also showed off his knack for writing wonderful scenes with sort of a heightened reality (I love this one with Rashad Jackson played by Alfred Molina). With the success of Boogie Nights, New Line Cinema gave Anderson a metaphoric black check to make whatever he wanted with absolute creative control (ever director’s dream). The film started out initially as a small intimate project, but as Anderson wrote it grew into a vast ensemble piece about the intersecting lives of several people in the San Fernando Valley, which we know as Magnolia. Again, Anderson’s film garnered three Oscar nominations (this time, one for acting, one of original song and one for writing). Anderson has claimed that Magnolia is the best film he will probably ever make.

And Now for Something Different (Sort of):

With the 1990s over and done, Anderson had three critical hits under his belt and sat almost atop the totem poll of prestige filmmakers. But, he wanted to try something different. All of his films had been long ensemble piece and he wanted to make something shorter and more centralized on one character. He decided to make a romantic comedy, but with his own style to it – and thus Punch-Drunk Love was born (partially based on David Phillips). Anderson played around with the visuals and especially the sound design to create the tone and character for his lead Adam Sandler (in what is easily his best performance). The film is aesthetically ambitious and wildly enthralling and strange (and maybe even off-putting for some). Leave it to Anderson to make a film in what has become the most genetic and boring genre (rom-coms) into something completely weird and beautiful. While not receiving any Oscar nominations, it did win best director at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Palm (best film). Next, Anderson made a film that at first glance seems nothing like a typical PT Anderson film with There Will Be Blood (my personal favorite of his films to date). The character piece is a cinematic marvel, as it is both aesthetically superb and features some of the decade’s best performances (notably Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role). In many ways, this film cements Anderson as a truly unique and gifted auteur, the film being among the greatest of the decade (some even naming it as one of the best American films ever made). It was nominated for eight Oscars (including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay) winning two (Cinematography for Robert Elswit, who shot all of Anderson’s first five films, and Lead Actor for Day-Lewis).

Upcoming Projects:

Anderson does not have any future projects set in stone at present. However, he is working on adapting Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice – a hard boiled pothead detective story. He has also mentioned an interest in another Pynchon novel Gravity’s Rainbow.

Career Highlights:

1)      Hard Eight (1996) – writer/director (DVD)
2)      Boogie Nights (1997) – writer/director (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
3)      Magnolia (1999)* – writer/director (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
4)      Punch-Drunk Love (2002) – writer/director (DVD, Streaming)
5)      There Will Be Blood (2007)* – writer/director (Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming)
*Editor’s picks

No comments:

Post a Comment