Back to IndieWire

11 Things We Learned About Paul Thomas Anderson at the New York Film Festival

11 Things We Learned About Paul Thomas Anderson at the New York Film Festival

This weekend, the New York Film Festival became the Paul Thomas Anderson show. On Saturday, the filmmaker unveiled “Inherent Vice,” his hugely anticipated follow-up to “The Master,” as the event’s Centerpiece Screening, followed by a lavish after-party nearby in Central Park where Anderson mingled with the film’s cast. The following morning, Anderson made another appearance – this time to take part in an hour-long-plus discussion, moderated by NYFF director Kent Jones, during which Anderson screened scenes from films (and one music video) that have inspired him over his career.

READ MORE: What We Learned About Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ at the New York Film Festival

Below are the top highlights from the talk. For a more in-depth rundown of the event, head over to The Playlist for their report.

His love for “Police Squad” fed into “Inherent Vice.”

Anderson kicked off the event with a scene from the 1982 TV police spoof show created by the Zucker Brothers (“Airplane!”) and Jim Abrahams. The selection didn’t come as a huge surprise given Anderson cited the Zucker Brothers as a huge influence on “Inherent Vice” in his recent New York Times profile. “It made such an impression on me. It’s hilarious, it doesn’t get any better,” he said of “Police Squad.” And recently I’ve been flashing back on it.

“It made me feel like: ‘Oh, you can do anything? Anything you you want? That’s ok?’ That’s a very liberating feeling… Anything that can flash you back to when you were a kid is helpful. Particularly when you’re starting up a new movie because amidst all the nerves and the energy and confusion of what you’re doing, breathing, remembering, ‘Why am I even here in the first place?’ Well, it’s like getting back to those original joys and feelings. Remembering that energy from being a kid, that anything is possible, remembering that you can get away with multiple things at the same time. That’s a kind of encouragement… I feel like I can use that to try and attack the story.”
He’s a hippy at heart.

After revving up the crowd with “Police Squad,” Anderson brought the mood to a simmer level with a lengthy and mostly silent clip from 1972’s “Journey Through the Past,” Neil Young’s directorial debut (who made it under the  pseudonym of Bernard Shakey). Anderson called the sequence of a man and woman just hanging on a bridge his “idea of heaven.” “A Saturday afternoon, cruising around with your girl, parking your jalopy with a babbling brook nearby, taking a joint out, eating some strawberries. I don’t know how it can get any better.”
READ MORE: Paul Thomas Anderson is Back With First ‘Inherent Vice’ Trailer

“Raising Arizona” blew him away.

“I remember seeing ‘Raising Arizona’ and it took 15 minutes before the title came on,” Anderson recalled at one point in the talk. “My head just spun around. Is the movie over? I’ve never seen a movie like that and I haven’t really since. That was a huge thing, seeing ‘Raising Arizona.'”

“Jackie Brown” makes Anderson want to cry.

Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” is a film riddled with profanity and spurts of violence, but Anderson chose to screen one of the film’s quietest and most tender scenes. “That is some seriously good shit,” Anderson said after showing a clip in which Pam Grier and Robert Forster talk about aging. “That’s a watermark in my mind, it makes me want to cry, it’s beautiful… It’s an apartment in a breakfast nook, what more do you need?”
He doesn’t like to get involved in the film vs. digital debate.

“Quentin’s a film nerd too,” Anderson said when Jones pointed out how Tarantino, like Anderson, only shoots on film. “There’s small group of us that’s slowly growing and sticking together. Quentin’s much more vocal about it. He wants to tar and feather people. He wants to turn it into one of movies, like, ‘I’m going to cut your fucking ear off!’ I stay out of [the film vs. digital debate]. I certainly throw my hat into the ring with what I like, but I also find it difficult to get on anybody if it’s their bag. I don’t want to tell you what to do, I don’t want you to tell me what to do.”

He saw “Interstellar.”

Kent brought up the names of other film advocates including Christopher Nolan, who made headlines last week after announcing that he’d be opening “Interstellar” early in cinemas equipped to screen it on 35mm and 70mm. Anderson let it slip that he’s already in fact seen the highly anticipated blockbuster. “He’s made a beautiful film,” Anderson said of “Interstellar.” “But don’t fuck around, go see it in IMAX.”

He loves Alex Cox.

A scene from Alex Cox’s “Repo Man” drew big applause from the audience, which no doubt made Anderson very happy. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s under appreciated,” Anderson said of the British cult filmmaker, who’s also known for “Sid and Nancy.” “I was 13 or 14 years old and I recognized the world [of ‘Repo Man’]. There such abandon in this movie – it’s focused, it’s funny, it’s outlandish. It’s talky in a way that never feels like a stage play ’cause it’s always moving. Quentin [Tarantino] I’m sure loved this movie, we’ve never talked about it, but there’s Quentin fingerprints all over the way these characters talk to each other.”
He feels he still hasn’t nailed an outdoor night sequence.

While discussing “Repo Man,” conversation veered to the look of the film, an aspect of the film Anderson is in awe of. That’s all thanks DP Robby Müller, who’s also worked with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch. What impresses Anderson most about his work on “Repo Man” are the night scenes. “I’m always trying to get night exteriors to look the way Robby Müller shot them,” Anderson said. “I can never do it. I never know how he did it. It doesn’t look like there’s any lights on, it looks like how it really looks and back then — there’s gotta be a million lights on… As long as I keep [making films], I’ll try and get night exteriors to look like Müller.”

For Anderson, it’s all about how a movie makes you feel.

“I never remember plots in movies,” Anderson admitted after screening a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s densely plotted “North By Northwest” — which just goes to show how trying to parse the knotty plot in “Inherent Vice” is totally besides the point. “I remember how they make me feel and I remember emotions and I remember visual things that I’ve seen, but my brain can never connect the dots of how things go together.”
Cary Grant is a God to Anderson.

“If you shot a movie with your phone and Cary Grant was in it, it would probably still be pretty good,” Anderson said while discussing the many merits of “North By Northwest,” the chief one being its star. “So all that stuff about what you shoot on? Put Cary Grant in it.”
Grimes makes him want to dance.

Anderson surprised the crowd by showing Emily Kai Bock’s music video for the song “Oblivion” by Canadian songstress Grimes. “That gets me going,” Anderson said about the clip. “It’s fucking great. It just saw it. It made me hyper, it made me want to dance around the room. I just want to bounce off the walls.” Anderson himself has directed a number of music videos, including several for his ex-girlfriend, Fiona Apple.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Festivals and tagged , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox