If you’re looking for a crash course in what makes Paul Thomas Anderson an auteur filmmaker, look no place else but his music videos. Anderson has directed 15 music videos throughout the course of his career so far, and each one is a succinct lesson in all of his best trademarks, from those technically-dazzling tracking shots to the intimate textures of his extreme closeups.
Anderson’s music video career has always intertwined with his film career. His first video arrived in 1997 with Michael Penn’s “Try,” just a year after his breakout directorial debut “Hard Eight.” Over the next 20 years, the filmmaker would go on to collaborate with Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom, and Radiohead multiple times. Most recently, Anderson has joined forces with the band Haim to direct several music videos for tracks off their second album, “Something to Tell You.” Three of these videos were edited into a 16-minute short film called “Valentine.”
Two things become clear when watching Anderson’s music videos: He has a gift for turning his camera into an instrument that heightens the atmosphere of each song and he’s utterly devoted to keeping the focus of each video on the artist. The latter point is quite clear in the videos that are simply performances that Anderson frames and lights in unique ways, but it’s clear even in the more elaborately staged videos. His main intention is to let the artist speak for himself/herself and to expand the song’s tone as powerfully as possible.
Check out the complete collection of Paul Thomas Anderson’s music videos below.