In the five years writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson took between 2002’s “Punch-Drunk Love” and 2007’s “There Will Be Blood,” he transitioned towards a more sombre tone. The strength of self-conviction and classical technique became more evident as he removed stylistic flourishes and sensory-heavy thematic tendencies that were once indicative of his work. This is what ultimately resulted in not only his Daniel Day Lewis-starring masterpiece but also his equally-brilliant “The Master” in 2012. Monumental not only in Anderson’s oeuvre but in modern cinema, these films present an arresting, all-encompassing portrait representing power and American ambition from a filmmaker unrivaled among his peers. This is the focus behind “Portraits of Power,” the latest video essay from The Directors Series.
The 33-minute video essay looks in depth at how Anderson’s influences, from John Ford and John Huston, ultimately informed the director in the second-chapter of his career, as well as how his newfound collaborations with production designer Jack Fisk, known previously for his towering work with Terrence Malick, and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood helped shape the more grandiose, epic feel laid within these two features. Where Anderson’s films were once quirky, now they became avant-garde, and where the “Boogie Nights” helmer once focused on ensemble pieces, he now diverted his attention to more singular character studies.
Where he once made films in the vein of Martin Scorsese or Robert Altman, it was with “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master” where Anderson truly came into his own with these two distinctly vivid masterworks. His vision was now fully realized, and while still inspired by his elders, he refined his unique sensibility. Check out this illuminating video below.