Following the release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” and especially leading up to an Oscar night finding him a nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay, much attention has been paid to the similarities in the director’s films. From oil prospectors to leaders of new religions to porn stars and private eyes, his characters often outwardly share little on the surface. But a cursory study reveals scores of similarities with respect to not only Anderson’s characters but between his films in general (case in point, check out this interview he did with Interview Magazine, which touches on a number of recurring themes his work).
Press Play has studied Anderson’s work long enough to set codify one trait that encapsulates a PTA film and the characters contained within. Video creator Jacob T. Swinney claims “the characters in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson share many similarities. They come from dysfunctional families, they are desperately seeking acceptance, they let their emotions get the best of them, and the list goes on. But a similarity that seems to especially stand out is a sense of isolation.”
Swinney says that PTA emphasizes this isolation by frequently framing his characters in long or even extreme shots. The audiences see the characters at a distance, because they are alone (emotionally, physically, metaphorically). In his supercut “Paul Thomas Anderson: From a Distance,” Swinney selects shots from a half dozen of PTA’s films to make his case. “Inherent Vice” isn’t included, as it’s still too new to (legitimately) feature, but you will see PTA’s six other features, “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” “There Will be Blood,” and “The Master.”
Check out the four-minute study below. The music in the montage is “Alethia” by Jonny Greenwood.