Few directors come to mind when you consider a large chronological scope in filmmaking. Sure, Stanley Kubrick had a great film in nearly every genre, others like John Ford are synonymous with Westerns and Woody Allen with a well-written comedy, but take someone like Paul Thomas Anderson, whose oeuvre spans the decades and lifetimes of his misanthropic characters, oftentimes creating an entirely new universe within a specific period or era. (That’s not to say Kubrick or Ford or Allen is by any means not on a par with Anderson, but you get my drift).
Anderson’s characters and themes can be seen in each of his films — the importance of family, neglect, the emotional significance of a father figure, religion as an antagonist — but if edited correctly, these themes can be seen sequentially.
In his new video essay, Jeremy Ratzlaff has made a nearly nine-minute supercut of Anderson’s films in order, beginning with “There Will Be Blood” in 1898 and continuing through his masterpieces up until “Punch Drunk Love,” which was filmed in 2002 (in the present day of the film itself).
Ratzlaff begins with the immense presence of Daniel Plainview, breathlessly played by Daniel Day-Lewis capturing the audience’s attention within the first several minutes of the film. He proposes that Plainview is seen in other protagonists in Anderson’s films — everyone from Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell in “The Master” and Doc Sportello in “Inherent Vice,” to John C. Reilly’s John in “Hard Eight,” to Melora Walters’s cocaine-fueled turn as Claudia Gator in “Magnolia.”
These characters are spliced into one another through their central emotional problems, and how they are fixed (or prolonged) to the other characters in Anderson’s pictures, but it all culminates with Adam Sandler’s terrific dramatic turn as Barry Egan in “Punch Drunk Love.” Barry is unstable; he is at the mercy of his sisters; he obsesses over a glitch in consumerism, and then he finally gets what he deserves (or needs) — an angel in the form of Lena (the always breathtaking Emily Watson). Barry is a bit of all these other mercurial characters, and you’ll see why when you watch this outstanding compliation.