After the (Y) machine took a festive break, the wheels are again starting to turn. To ring in the New Year, I’m going to be telling you about each of my ten favourite movies. it’s been harder than expected to elucidate my feelings on these films, usually “just watch the damn thing” is more effective than a series of ridiculous superlatives, but here goes. I hope you enjoy!
The most recent of all the films on my list and in my own opinion, an instant classic. It’s especially hard to write about this film because the thing that draws me to this film most is it’s enigmatic impenetrability.
Paul Thomas Anderson is another master of the meticulous, much like Kubrick. He stitches narrative together in ways that makes Pulp Fiction look like Dora The Explorer, he paints bold depictions of America à la Scorsese and has a deftness for character and dialogue to match the Coens, albeit without their signature comedic leanings. He is probably the greatest director working today.
His decision to use 70mm is indicative of his dedication to his craft and although I did not get to one of the rare screenings in this medium, I have always believed that original intent is far more significant than ultimate execution.
This film also see’s the return of Joaquin Phoenix, another great artist made more interesting via the obfuscation of his persona. Here, his WWII vet turned alcoholic becomes the subject of scientific musings at the hands of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s L. Ron Hubbard cypher Lancaster Dodd.
We follow their relationship as it bends and twists. PTA usually focuses on an unusual father/son relationship, and Dodd and Phoenix’s Freddie Quell certainly go that but at any one point they could be best friends, stark rivals, subject and examiner and complete stranger. It’s the heart of the film and satisfyingly it never settles or ties itself off, it follows life as it really unfolds and never once panders to preconceived notion of what an audience may need to glean from a film.
Disappointingly though, this has led to the films shameful underrated status (it holds a lower IMDb rating than The Hunger Games for crying out loud). It is testament to the boldness of the filmmaker, satisfying himself and no one else. I find that far more satisfying than any cop-out Hollywood ending.
– Oliver Drew