YOU KNOW IT’S A PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON MOVIE IF
Paul Thomas Anderson only has nine feature films under his belt, but he has emerged as one of the most exciting American filmmakers. Of course, people have their favorites, but there isn’t such a thing as a bad Paul Thomas Anderson movie.
Daniel Day-Lewis chose the movie “ PHANTOM THREAD” to be the one he would end his acting career. This farewell entourage to one of the all-time greatest actors left me salivating to see something else from him again; so sensible and nuanced. Unfortunately, cinematic art like Phantom in America doesn’t come about all too often. It almost feels like a once-in-a-generation celestial event. This only tells what caliber a director could be if one of the greatest actors of all time chose Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie to end his career.
Anderson’s movies have evolved over the last two decades. His early films are chaotic and dramatic, built with extreme techniques and extreme performances.
His later films have similar intensity, but it is often internal, more intellectual than physical, and his directing style has also become more mature and restrained.
You know it is a P.T. Anderson movie if you see a character out of time and America in transition. He often sets movie in periods of upheaval, and give us characters who are alienated by the transition periods, people who feel like they have been left behind during formative moments in American culture. In “Boogie Nights,” the 80’s usher into the home video cameras, so Jack Horners’ professional-quality porn becomes obsolete.
Many of Anderson’s flicks are period films, but we don’t notice them that much. They aren’t what we tend to think of when we think of a “period piece.” He chooses very specific slices of time and space ones that haven’t been extensively visualized on the screen. But maybe the biggest reason his movies don’t seem period is because of his choice of music.
We get expressive syncopated scores that give us a window into the inner turmoil his character is facing.
His movies look at the impact of religion. His focus isn’t on what any religion preaches, but on how belief influences his characters.
PTA likes to keep the camera moving in most of the shots. We can see his flair for camera movement in his earlier works.
A running theme in Paul’s stories is that human connection is the one thing that helps us rise to a higher level of existence.
His movies often give us a surrogate family. Makeshift families give the character purpose and belongings.
The main goal or voice in Anderson’s movies is to accept ourselves. His character often lies about who they are, especially to themselves. In his movie, Magnolia, Frank TJ Mackey tries to forget his painful past by lying about his father’s death and going to college at Berkeley. In the Masters, Lancaster asks a series of rapid-fire questions, and Freddie lies at first, but the truth pours out of him uncontrollably.
In the end, his films argue that, before we can do anything else worthwhile, we have to face the truth and accept ourselves for who we really are.
Here are his movies listed by the year of their release:
- Hard Eight (1996)
- Boogie Nights (1997)
- Magnolia (1999)
- Punch Drunk Love (2002)
- There Will Be Blood (2004)
- The Master (2007)
- Inherent Vice (2014)
- Phantom Thread (2017)
- Licorice Pizza (2021)