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Paul Thomas Anderson’s New Short Film ‘Valentine’ Is an Exquisite Rock Opera

The 14-minute short goes behind the scenes during the making of Haim's recently-released album, "Something to Tell You."

Paul Thomas Anderson Valentine

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Valentine”

No one has cooler side projects than Paul Thomas Anderson. Last November, shortly before starting production on his still untitled London fashion drama with Daniel Day-Lewis, Anderson directed the short film “Valentine,” a behind-the-scenes look at the pop rock band Haim recording three songs for their recent album “Something to Tell You.” Anderson also collaborated with Radiohead on three videos last year for songs off their acclaimed album “A Moon Shaped Pool.”

Haim released the first four and a half minutes of the short film as a music video for their song “Right Now” in April, though “video” is a bit of a misnomer, as Anderson shot “Valentine” on beautiful 35mm.

“This short plays well with concert films, musicals, late night shows, sing-a-longs and a glass of beer,” reads a description on the 35mm print canister. “Please play loud!”

Haim

(L-R) Danielle Haim, Alana Haim and Este Haim.

Instagram via @haimtheband

IndieWire caught the short on the big screen before a screening of “Baby Driver” at Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse on July 17, and can confirm that no one shoots live music quite like Anderson. As the camera floats gracefully around the studio, idling for moments with each of the three Haim sisters (Alana, Danielle and Este all sing and play the guitar and drums, among other instruments), the audience is treated to an intimate live performance that doubles as a behind-the-scenes look at how an album is recorded.

Named after Valentine Recording Studios in Los Angeles where Haim made the album, following in the footsteps of artists like The Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and Quincy Jones, the short film has a distinct documentary feel, capturing things like the sounds of Este Haim’s footsteps as she puts down a guitar and walks over to a set of drums.

The second song featured in the short film, the album’s title track, begins with complete darkness, aside from a single light shining from the base of the drum set, where lead singer Danielle Haim stomps on a drum pedal while singing the opening lyrics. Anderson changes up the lighting for each of the songs, varying from the cool blue tint of “Right Now” to the strong glow of “Nothing’s Wrong,” helping divide the short into three miniature acts.

Paul Thomas Anderson and Haim

Instagram via @haimtheband

Haim spent four years making “Something to Tell You,” their second album after their 2013 debut “Days are Gone,” which earned them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. While “Valentine” is sure to turn up online eventually, experiencing Danielle Haim’s devastating guitar solo at the end of “Nothing’s Wrong” projected on the big screen is well worth it, as is the three-person drumming jam session that ends the short film.

Like Anderson’s upcoming fashion drama, it appears that the director served as his own cinematographer on “Valentine.” The end credits list two camera operators, but no director of photography. PTA fans will have to wait until December 25 for his next feature film, but as far as side projects between movies are concerned, this 14-minute rock opera is as good as it gets.

Check out the music video for “Right Now” below.

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