A2P Cinema's Featured Filmmaker

Born: 1970, United States

Paul Thomas Anderson may be the very best filmmaker currently working (to me with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Terrence Malick). Anderson has directed eight feature films in a career that started in 1996. His popularity began with second and third features Boogie Nights and Magnolia, which many still consider his best films. To me those are significant achievements in film and hold personal significance to developing my own personal admiration of cinema... yet they are more just works of his own admiration of film and its rich history and ultimately not representative of the master he has become since. The pivotal turn came in 2002 with Punch-Drunk Love. While that film itself is sort of adapting all that Anderson admires of his heroes, it also sees the growth of Anderson shifting toward a less self-conscious career and beautifully reflects his own signature expression of loneliness with such empathy and skill.


"For once, for once in life, I've finally felt, That someone needed me, Because, He needs me he needs me, He needs me he needs me". These lyrics from the great Paul Thomas Anderson's 2002 masterpiece Punch-Drunk Love (itself directly taken from Robert Altman's 1980 film Popeye) could easily fit in any of his films. While the tone is playful and fitting in Punch-Drunk Love the lyrics may be an even better fit in Phantom Thread, which flawlessly shapes Anderson's career-long emotions of loneliness and the need for someone else to provide purpose. This resonates in all his films but never more essentially then here, and never with such unusual empathy and hope. It has the touch of a mature master filmmaker in full understanding of his personal vision. For all that, Phantom Thread may be the defining masterpiece of Anderson's career and truly one of the significant films of the decade. The performances are perfect and will likely grow in depth over time. Anderson's dialogue is fantastic - finding poetry and mystery in silence between the characters, as Phantom Thread frequently defies our expectations with such quiet expertise which is incomparable mastery in contemporary cinema.


I'll keep my thoughts on this film simple, by saying there is no question Punch-Drunk Love is one of my favorite films of all-time!! There is so much I take from this perfect little film, but I guess essentially Punch-Drunk Love displays the power and joy of finding freedom and falling in love against a society of pressures and of conformity (all while being made in a filmmaking style and expressionism that embraces the beauty, joy, artistry and magic of films). Through love, Barry finds redemption and strength to break through the repressed emotional and physical “window” he has been trapped into. Love gives him the strength to break out of this “window” and we see this towards the end as he walks out of The Mattress Man building by “breaking” through the front doors, which (like the rest of the building and Barry's own office) is made of glass. Next Barry must find Lena, redeem the mileage, play the harmonium, and “so here we go….”

>>> Because of Anderson's visionary expression within each visual detail as well as each emotional and physical state of his characters, the film becomes a breathtaking experience that could be analyzed (or simply admired) for years - and I have attempted to do so at a website I created in 2004: SoHereWeGo


I have seen Inherent Vice many many times now and I find each viewing unique to another - where a moment is funny one viewing, it is suddenly touching another time or the other way around. The great Paul Thomas Anderson has made (with his 7th feature) a true film experience - one that takes you into its world. I absolutely adore the dreamlike rhythm of this film and I love how it grows with repeat viewings. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality, Anderson has masterfully adapted the complex depth of Thomas Pynchon's literature. Anderson is the first filmmaker to boldly attempt an adaptation of Pynchon's interweaving experimentation. Inherent Vice is a film that masterfully captures a time, a place, and a way of living with a force few filmmakers can achieve with the mastery Anderson does. The set design and visuals heighten the intimate expressions of guilt and fear and of loss - which Anderson ultimately makes the emotional core of this film. The entire cast is simply flawless and the desolate atmosphere is equally frightening and funny. The film will inevitably be compared to the masters that have helped shaped Anderson's cinematic form (Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick), yet Anderson has accomplished something remarkable with this film, which I will never stop returning to watch!!


Underscored by a haunting musical composition by Jonny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson's film opens on a vista landscape of a wide-open, and uninhabited land. Then a cut to black and we are literally emerged into darkness. A dark hole actually, where a menacing figure is seen digging through this hole, which he soon strikes silver. Through darkness and grueling labor this man is driven. Driven (by greed) to never return to a hole and to claim his fortune of the land. Over the course of the stunning opening 20 minutes there are no words- just gestures and sounds (grunts, cries, and music). It is here the tone is immediately set, and after a transition to years later, dialogue arises "Ladies and gentlemen". And so it is the start of a masterpiece tale of greed, religion, family, deception, power, and self-interest. With his fifth feature, Paul Thomas Anderson has done something he has never done in his career, loosely adapting Upton Sinclair's novel (Oil!). Yet the film is distinctly his, and you are aware of this at every turn because of the precise handling of the grand epic. This is a classic American film in the vein of Orson Welles, DW Griffith, John Huston, or Stanley Kubrick, but Anderson boldly gives it his usual unconventional touch. Essentially There Will Be Blood is a battle of two forces, capitalism and religion, portrayed through two characters (the oil man Daniel Plainview and the preacher Eli Sunday). Not to go without credit is the remarkable lead performance by Daniel-Day Lewis. Under Anderson's direction, Lewis has created one of the most memorable characters in American film- Daniel Plainview, a monstrous presence who's humanity comes only from his unrelenting determination. Duality is a prominent motif of the film and this is most expressed through the twin brothers Eli and Paul Sunday (both played by Paul Dano). In Eli Sunday, Daniel (who "sees the worst in people") initially finds a conflict in what he sees as a false prophet, much in the way he is a false family man. As the title subtly hints, kinship also lies at the core of the film, most notably the blood kinship with Daniel: his adopted son H.W., who he profits off of prior to his accident; his brother Henry, who is also not of the same blood and who Daniel openly confides in; and of course Eli, the preacher who refers to him as Brother Daniel. When the film reaches its mind-blowing climax, its perfectly brought to a crashing battle of survival (not only physically but also psychologically and spiritually as well). Daniel loses H.W. in his marriage to Eli's sister. Eli, who has lost to brother Paul as a true prophet, is left only with Daniel. Having lost thier family, they essentially (as competition) only have each other and the stronger survives ("I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!"). In the end Daniel (now in a mansion) ultimately finds himself back alone in a hole like he started in the films opening. Completely assured of the rhythm and narrative, Paul Thomas Anderson has achieved a bold masterwork of technical expertise. "I'm finished!"

5THE MASTER (2012)

In all of the great Paul Thomas Anderson's films lies an idea of capturing the American dream and finding your place in the society (many times through family). But the past and memories can not escape and this comes to it's bleakest form in his sixth feature The Master. Featuring some of the most skillfully designed moving and still images of his masterful career, Anderson's 2012 film is a beautiful achievement. It's a fitting follow-up to his extraordinary 2007 film There Will Be Blood - notably in the way the film expresses dueling forces. Here those forces are much more internal and the film concludes with a sense of doom that makes this such an unforgettable and yet unnerving film. It is definitely Anderson's darkest and most challenging work.


Stylistically Licorice Pizza is an interesting follow-up to Anderson's previous film Phantom Thread, but under the surface both share themes that have been reflected throughout the filmmakers masterful career. While this film is not as seemingly measured as Phantom Thread, make no mistake that Anderson is in full control of everything here. This film does such an amazing job of taking you into its space, a space where characters are constantly on the run (running towards each, or away from others, or running away from what they really ant to say). Its hard to define this films as a straight comedy or romance. Its a love story but not really a romance as the love story here is about two souls who need one another. If Phantom Thread was his Vertigo, this hangout film is his Rio Bravo... but ultimately such simplifications are not fair to any of those films, all of which will stand as American treasures!

7MAGNOLIA (1999)

Magnolia will always hold a special place in my heart as a film that changed the way I look and admire watching films. Paul Thomas Anderson's third feature is an unflinching epic in which he boldly attempts to recapture the spirit of his filmmaking legends (most notably Robert Altman and Max Ophüls). It's sprawling, it's flawed, it's self-conscious but Magnolia is a genuine cinematic experience from a gifted filmmaker in the earliest development of his mastery. Some shades are evident in characters and themes but this now film seems to be made by a young and intense filmmaker that has since matured.


Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights is one of the boldest, and ultimately, funnest films of the 1990's. Through outstanding performances and with visual flair and a seemless blend of comedy with drama, Anderson combines the style of Max Ophüls or Martin Scorsese, the structure of Robert Altman, and the humanity of Jonathan Demme. As in all PT Anderson pictures he gets the audience to sympathize with the characters, showing that despite their "immoral" profession they are people like anyone else. People that made decisions in their lives, and are dealing with the consequences that come with the decisions. Boogie Nights is brilliant in every aspect of filmmaking. From the opening Goodfellas-esque tracking shot to the closing Raging Bull-esque monologue, the film keeps the viewer interested as few films can. The camera is always moving, and the music always playing as the viewer is pulled into emotions of the film, it's intriguing characters, and the excellent dialogue.

9HARD EIGHT (1996)

Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature film Hard Eight (or originally intended as Sydney prior to Studio demands and changes) is a wonderful character study that will grab you from the start and never let go. It immediately established what has become obvious, PT Anderson is a brilliant filmmaker with intriging characters, sensational dialogue, Reno atmposhere and fantastic camera work. Hard Eight is a simple film which will pull you in with it's mysteries of it's characters and their relationships. It's such an interesting film, which is constantly doubling back on itself and revealing new things. Anderson has a gifted ability with narrative and the film is beautifully construction here. Of course with Hard Eight it's the characterization within the narrative that carries the heart of the film, and it certainly helps having such talented actors as all the performances are outstanding: Philip Baker Hall in his best performance since Robert Altman's Secret Honor as Sydney, Anderson's favorite actor John C Reilly is perfect as John, the radiant Gwyneth Paltrow as the waitress/hooker Clementine, Samuel L Jackson as Jimmy the gangster, and even Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a humorous cameo). The performances and chemistry amongst the cast is outstanding and deeply absorbing to watch. With every viewing you'll be drawn into the characters and their lives, finding repeat viewings fascinating and incredibly moving. How can you not be moved during the scene when Sydney is on the phone with John? Or the extended sequence with Clementine, John, and Sydney at the motel? Or the tense conversations between Jimmy and Sydney? Sure Hard Eight has it's influences (Bob Le Flambeur, Touchez pas au grisbi, or Jonathan Demme's Melvin and Howard being most obvious), but this is still an original, touching, gripping debut from an wonderfully talented filmmaker. Anderson has such a natural filmmaking ability, and his knowledge, respect, and understanding of films and of film history is evident throughout his work.