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Paul Thomas Anderson is a Big ‘Dunkirk’ Fan: ‘Its Wordless Structure Was So Exciting to Me’

Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan could be facing off in the Oscar race for Best Director this year.


Melinda Sue Gordon

Paul Thomas Anderson has always been an advocate for his friend and fellow celluloid enthusiast Christopher Nolan, so it’s no surprise the “Phantom Thread” filmmaker loves “Dunkirk.” The WWII survival story was released over the summer to some of the year’s best reviews (IndieWire named it Nolan’s greatest achievement to date) and grossed over $500 million worldwide. “Its practically wordless structure was so exciting to me,” Anderson told Variety of Nolan’s film, which was shot entirely on 65mm. “It’s stripped down to bare essentials.”

Anderson, whose “Phantom Thread” could be facing off against “Dunkirk” in numerous awards races this season, including Best Director, has long made his positive thoughts on Nolan’s films loud and clear. In fall 2015, Anderson was advocating on behalf of Nolan’s “beautiful” space epic “Interstellar” by urging movie lovers to watch it in Nolan’s preferred IMAX format. “Don’t fuck around, go see it in IMAX,” Anderson said at the New York Film Festival. “Brave the line. Do it, bite the bullet.” Years earlier, Anderson raved about Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy.

“You look at what Christopher Nolan did with Batman, that’s like the meeting of the highest level of artistic skill & a kind of commerciality and appeal to a wide range of people which is what anybody would want,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of unparalleled actually, and they don’t come to me with those. And that’s alright.”

Back in July as “Dunkirk” was opening nationwide, Nolan told Little White Lies that his friendship with Anderson has resulted in something of a 70mm film club, which also includes Quentin Tarantino and Zack Snyder. All of these directors have been at the forefront of the film vs. digital debate, advocating for the preservation and use of celluloid.

“We all learn from each other,” Nolan said about his relationship with Anderson and the others. “In the last few years, the photochemical process has come under threat from electronics companies and studios. I got in touch with Quentin and Paul and we spent a lot of time talking about what can be done.”

Anderson is one of many directors who have singled out “Dunkirk” as a favorite from 2017. Filmmakers Edgar Wright and Rian Johnson posted rave reviews of the movie on Twitter in July. Wright called it a “powerful, immersive, intense masterpiece that demands it be seen on the big screen,” while Johnson called it an “all-timer.”

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