It’s no secret that those around these parts have a deep love for Paul Thomas Anderson. He’s one of the most unique and thoughtful directors working today. His films have run the gamut of tone and subject matter, but all are defined by PTA’s deft camera work, idiosyncratic characters, and the delicacy with which he approaches a story: his films are earnest and understanding, no story or character is ever dismissed. Now, after the knotty and wildly dense “Inherent Vice,” Anderson has made some of his comedic interests more plain. And while that film seemed to come out of left field, following “The Master” and “There Will Be Blood” — two films shockingly unafraid of humorous moments — the director has never been afraid to dip his toes into the genre.
To explore some of these more humorous films in PTA’s oeuvre, The Directors Series has put together a new video essay that digs into his fourth feature “Punch-Drunk Love.” The doc dives into Anderson’s career post “Magnolia,” when his success has been cemented and when the world had just become certain he was no one trick pony, and when he seemed intent on expanding his body of work and testing his own range. It connects the dots on the great SNL short “Fanatic” with Jimmy Fallon and Ben Affleck, to the handful of music videos he shot in the years between features, with “Punch-Drunk Love,” a comedy that, while hilarious, is distinctly Anderson, a bruising, melancholic romance starring the butt of Hollywood’s jokes, Adam Sandler.
The video essay is fascinating stuff, working to highlight some of the more playful years in the director’s career, and serving as a reminder to just how far the breadth of his films can reach. Check out the 20-minute video below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.