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Review Roundup: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Music Doc ‘Junun’ Is an Immersive Experience

Review Roundup: Paul Thomas Anderson's Music Doc 'Junun' Is an Immersive Experience

Earlier this year, when the Maharaja of Jodhpur hosted Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and The Rajasthan Express for a three-week recording session at the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, in Rajasthan, India, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson tagged along with his camera in tow. The result is “Junun,” a two-disc album of ecstatic, trance-like tunes—out Nov. 13 from Nonesuch Records—and Anderson’s slim, impressionistic documentary of the same name, available today from digital streaming platform MUBI.

Translated as “madness of love,” “Junun” finds Anderson further developing the psychedelic, low-key vibe of “Inherent Vice,” here in an intimate portrait of cross-cultural collaboration. At a mere 54 minutes, with minimal explanation or dialogue, the film resists the urge to narrate the proceedings, transforming the musicians’ ongoing creative act into “an assemblage of moments,” as Indiewire’s Eric Kohn writes, that’s “not really a movie in any traditional sense.” Read excerpts from the first reviews below:

Eric Kohn, Indiewire:
“Much of ‘Junun’ evades the pressures of a traditional behind-the-scenes music documentary in which collaborative details come equipped with talking heads. It might be more accurate to describe Anderson’s approach as post-narrative, in that it offers up a uniquely 21st century collage of digital wizardry and homegrown talent that focuses less on structure than unique, fragmentary encounters with cultures fusing together.”

Nick Schager, Variety:
“‘Junun’ functions as an experiential documentary, one in which all meaning and emotion is derived from being wholly submerged in the music on display… Favoring long, unbroken takes that allow the rhythmic, full-bodied songs to breathe as they ebb and flow from beginning to end, Anderson’s aesthetics unobtrusively capture the magic of Greenwood and company’s global partnership. It’s a reverent tribute, and one that articulates its underlying themes in subtle, piercing snapshots.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
“[T]here’s something distinctly joyous and celebratory about the way the camera flies in and out of the ornate architectural structure to connect the music to the people, places, and spaces surrounding the fort. Glimpses of musicians catching a few winks during breaks or power outages add to the flavorful observation. Andy Jurgensen’s editing echoes the changeable rhythms of Ben Tzur’s spectacular, surging music in a transporting film that places us right there in the room, living and breathing a singular artistic experience. Trying to remain in your seat is futile.”

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