Monday, July 11, 2016


Welcome to another installment of the DIRECTOR SERIES, where we take a look at specific directors and the advancements they have made, the style they possess and where their place is in the history of cinema. Today we look at one of the most important directors to emerge in the 1990-2000's era, PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON.

From the late 1960’s into the 1980’s a slue of cinema nerds emerged onto the grand stage of directing. Directors who started out with projects that seemed minimalist at the time but then turned into some of the greatest films to have ever been crafted. Directors such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, etc., directors who were influenced directly from the films and the ideologies of the french new wave, have now raised the bar for the standard of great directing. This standard seemed unreachable, until the middle of the 1990’s and into the 2010’s, we received a new wave of directors who possessed not only technical abilities but artistic and storytelling abilities that shocked the world of cinema. 

Today we focus on one of those directors in particular, Paul Thomas Anderson. Often forgotten on the list of directors to emerge out of the modern wave, Paul Thomas Anderson has made a name for himself in the world of cinema and definitely has not gone un-noticed to those of us who pay attention. With only seven feature films under his belt, Anderson has already added his name to the list of the great directors. 

Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) is a very unique film maker when it comes to the stories he creates and that’s the first advantage he has over the competition. An interesting director you could compare him to is Quentin Tarantino.  PTA writes, directs, and produces all of his own films much like Tarantino, yet lands higher up on my list. He chooses odd stories, which again lands him in the same boat as Tarantino, yet to me PTA creates a more interesting environment and a more intriguing approach to the way he delivers his scenarios. And it’s not just your average everyday car salesman with PTA. No, it’s the next big name in pornography, or a man obsessed with ruling the oil business, or a coked up private detective. He takes us into the mind of people who have goals, but not goals that we necessarily agree with as an audience. PTA is probably the only director working who delivers the strangest walks of life to the big screen and somehow still manages to make them cinematic, and relatable to the audience. 

A good story is what cinema thrives on, it’s what we’re taught all the way back to the silent directors like Méliès and Carl Dreyer. But PTA does hold some technical abilities, nothing that gets your eye to pop but just small tidbits that help get his point across. One technical ability that he holds is being the master of the one take. Which is a pretty great title considering how many one takes have been done. One takes have been celebrated for ages. It was typically the only way of showing certain scenarios in film because the directors in the early 1920’s and 30’s didn't have the ideas of moving the camera to show different angles. Then the one take became sort of a one up contest, who can do it the best, and who wishes to show off how much patience and money they have. It doesn't take much to make a one take interesting yet PTA has somehow figured out how to make one takes incredibly astounding to look at. Especially in his third feature film Boogie Nights. In one of the first scenes we are introduced to this epic one take that winds and glides it’s way through a night club showing the environment, the activities, and feelings of rich business men in the  70’s. Another one we get a bit later in the film is at a party where we go under water to see models swim in their tight bathing suits and rich pornography business men doing cocaine and drinking copious amounts of alcohol along with other various illegal activities. 

Paul Thomas Anderson's one-takes aren’t better simply because the choreography is more elaborate but because we’re seeing everything we need to see. The importance of the scene lies within that one take and we are getting loads and loads of information in those few minutes. Instead of being “lazy” and shooting standard coverage which can get boring for the actors, he takes a more interesting approach to giving the audience everything they want. We don’t watch Boogie Nights or There Will Be Blood to see rainbows and a beautiful love story, we watch them because we want to see PTA’s characters in the setting he has chosen and his most effective way of showing us that is with the one take. 

When it comes to creating a film, PTA is his own best asset. He isn’t known for the outstanding cinematography in his films, he’s actually never really be recognized for the artistic side of his films, even though his production and costume design is outstanding. No, we celebrate PTA because he does something no one else can, dazzle us with emotion.  Most popular film makers are celebrated due to a technical stroke of genius and a few quiet moments that some would see as emotional but they really aren’t. Most film makers utilize the editing theories of Kuleshov to create emotional moments in their films. Now, this doesn’t make them bad film makers, they just understand the concept of editing and they like the effect it gives. Paul Thomas Anderson likes emotion in the moment, which is another reason he loves the one take.

A lot of his one-takes go unnoticed because when we are watching an emotional moment in the film we forget that the angle has yet to switch, if you’re doing it correctly.  These one-takes aren’t the best due to the choreography or the amount of events that happen, but because we get everything we need that will progress the story along and because we are watching his characters unfold.

Another title PTA is currently battling for is the master of the period piece. You may not think of him as a period piece director due to the lack of dazzle to his period piece. He's more subtle with his period pieces but they still sit on the same scale as Tarantino. PTA tackles things like the crazy groovy far out times of the 70’s, and the raging blood sweat and tear fight for the booming oil industry. Like most other aspects to his films, he's subtle but he knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. He doesn’t enjoy dazzle or shouting his name from the rooftop like Tarantino, but rather sitting quietly in the corner of the classroom, getting A’s on every assignment he hands in.

Paul Thomas Anderson quietly entered the world of cinema. I wish I could say he exploded but he didn’t and that’s exactly how he likes it.

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