Where do I even begin when it comes to the oeuvre of a film-making genius like Paul Thomas Anderson? From the music in his films to the atmosphere he creates for his characters, or, is it the visual themes that his work poetically presents?
The question above is a loaded one; that is something, in detail, to be discussed, and be cleared intellectually when one gets the opportunity to spend time with the filmmaker himself. Though, Anderson, as the filmmaker and as the screenwriter, whether it is a concept he creates himself or ones he adopts, is in a constant state of communication, for he is a lot like a communicator—very much like Orson Welles. His communication via his, not only the point of view, but via the medium of film itself, is the lesson that every film enthusiast must devote his/her time to, in order to learn, grasp, not just the gist, also the entirety of the meanings the oeuvre of Anderson’s hold.
To dive deeper into the filmography of Anderson will take perhaps days, months and years as they consist of the philosophical tones carried proudly throughout. Not many filmmakers dare to be a Paul Thomas Anderson, and even if they do attempt to be one, that is very much safe to say, it is an attempt that is a waste of energy and time for the others. We let Paul Thomas Anderson to be the only Paul Thomas Anderson, like we let Orson Welles be the only Orson Welles. Aesthetically, it is arduous to be like P.T. Anderson just as no one can be Welles, Kubrick and Hitchcock. But, these filmmakers, including Anderson, have the filmmaker-habits, we can borrow. Here’s something interesting about Inherent Vice, Anderson’s latest film adapted faithfully from the book by Thomas Pynchon. I won’t go into detail as to what the film is about as I’m sure you know that by now.
Inherent Vice is Anderson’s way of communicating with audiences through, less the concept, more the camera angles; various uniquely captured shots; expressions; music; setting and calmness. Anderson’s film is not the thesis here, it is the presentation of what’s real—realists possess the attitude; Anderson is a poet first like he has always been and Inherent Vice is his song of love for the medium he respects, the form, the squared frame of cinema. He is that poet whom is penning the terms of love, with tears streaming down his face. His film is a universe unknown—it is the creation of hands and the mind together, an effort that will never be duplicated. In other words, Anderson’s films, especially Inherent Vice, are a film a lot less for the moment, for Anderson makes films for ages. Inherent Vice is his film for the centuries to come, then to be revered, venerated by us, and all, becoming strictly diurnal aficionados. Anderson proves that he is very much the prophet of cinema, now standing next to the greats like Hitchcock, Kubrick and Welles.
In Inherent Vice the characters are often captured from behind, back to us angles. There is a scene in which both Doc (Phoenix) and Shasta (Waterston) are sitting, silhouetted against the dusk sky. Anderson says here, this is my moving-image-postcard created for the generation that has gone and the generation on the way. To stir the film through philosophy, which Inherent Vice is attempted, the film is interpreted, in its every single shot, if one does hit the pause button, as it questions, not the existence of the world, the era it represents, but first and foremost, beauty and what’s real—the truth. Here, Anderson’s film is more of an object. Objects can be defined in a way of a portrait, painting or a book, literature—all of them present in themselves a philosophical deed a lot like poetry, and in this case, Inherent Vice is poetry by P.T. Anderson, the poet.
Similar to his previous films, Anderson’s has kept Inherent Vice as honest as he can, not for a minute shying away from the element that his body of work usually carries, and that is, that they are always real. Anderson’s films are presentations of a realist-filmmaker. To explain, perhaps in a much stronger manner, a realist, Andre Bazin, had the film classified as real, for the film is competent of capturing the independent reality of human subjectivity. Many viewers might find Inherent Vice slow in pace, but the beauty of it lies in such method, for Anderson’s oeuvre strictly time travels to 1900s, explaining the movement-image concept developed by Henri Bergson, whom had image declared superior to the concept.
Unlike Anderson’s previous films, Inherent Vice, argues nothing much. Filmography of his, functions most of the time like an argument, respectively—tackling sentimentalism, religion, power, greed, whereas Inherent Vice is an homage to the style known as noir, and paranoia, expressed delicately by the actors, Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston and Josh Brolin. A film should be alive, it must be able to breath, no matter what concept it is in the process of conveying; is it linear, non-linear, does not at all matter. Film can also be, as we all know, with no single lines, a mute piece of work, where only music and images convey the message, their morality. Anderson speaks with images and long sessions consist of cogent, calm, meaningful dialogues. Dialogues that does take its plot somewhere in the end, but leaves one thinking, where am I? Anderson, perhaps, chose to borrow Pynchon’s book strictly for its dialogues, and excuse of it on the surface, it’s the era, the book represents.
Films, while they have the audacity to explain to us philosophy—ask us questions, pays homage to cinema, art, and be arguments, they can also test, not just knowledge of us, but tolerance, the attention span. Inherent Vice is the perfect example of that. It is Paul Thomas Anderson’s most powerful work in his outstanding filmography.