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Paul Thomas Anderson


mrbellamy
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Indeed. Even The Master and Phantom Thread have their own sense of veiled "warmth" to them, especially the latter. They're about assholes yes, but they're certainly not monolithic.

 

But it sounds like Licorice Pizza will definitely be a refreshing change of direction for PTA.

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So There Will Be Blood and The Master are light, warm and fuzzy movies to you guys? I don't see it. Just because PTA doesn't make his characters completely rotten doesn't mean they aren't predominantly dark characters. I'd say that are the kind of characters PTA is drawn to.

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I would flip it back the other way and say just because he doesn't make his characters complete rays of sunshine doesn't mean they're not sympathetic. 

 

Ultimately these two views are why his movies are more interesting than most. 

 

EVEN There Will Be Blood, PTA's views on it are always that the movie is first and foremost about the complicated relationship between Daniel and HW. And when someone on Reddit asked him if Daniel ever really loved H.W., his answer was "For sure he loved him, for sure, for sure, don't you think? He just didn't know what to do when HW grew into his own man." I think this bears out in their interactions and these are the sorts of readings that keep me from viewing his movies as cynical about humanity. That even a character as thoroughly despicable and misanthropic as Daniel Plainview deep deep deep down loved that boy, even as he was cursing him at the end. The slight glimmers of humanity when he thinks he's found his brother too, and the sheer betrayal and anger when he realizes not, that movie has empathy for Daniel Plainview.

 

I think that's what people say when they mean PTA's movies ultimately feel warm, not that they're light and fuzzy but that these movies really do love their fucked-up characters. Also TWBB definitely has a sense of humor.

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There are sympathetic characters in all of them, as long as you don't interpret the word "sympathetic" in a simplistic binary way. Many (most?) of his main characters seem to have pretty severe personality disorders which make sympathising with them more of a challenge. Of all of them, I find it bizarre that you would find Adam Sandler's character in Punch-Drunk Love to be flat-out unsympathetic (even though he certainly is as annoying as hell).

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Most of his movies are sad and they make me feel sad and not in that good way where it's like "that was cathartic" only in a depressing way.  But also he's clearly a great writer and he knows how to create interesting characters that yeah I would consider sympathetic.

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3 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

Most of his movies are sad and they make me feel sad and not in that good way where it's like "that was cathartic" only in a depressing way.

 

That's interesting, yeah they definitely have that good, cathartic effect on me, especially Magnolia. Funny how some depressing movies will just leave me drained and others will leave me weirdly uplifted. 

 

Like I've never "enjoyed" a horror movie even though I can admire some, while for others that's their movie medicine. Even Shaun of the Dead made me depressed. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

We all pick up on different things, I guess. Rather than the other way around, his movies mostly expose the not so pretty side of people, with characters that often engage in a psychological warfare (who is dominating who) and sometimes they are about the dark side of America as well, especially in The Master and There Will Be Blood, where it feels like we are witnessing the birth of cults ans sects, the rise of capitalismOne could even wonder if PTA isn't too cynical? Are we really that bad?

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34 minutes ago, Edmilson said:

Watch a Zack Snyder DC movie and you'll understand the meaning of dark... lol

 

So basically movies that are literally dark, as in take place in shadows with drained out colors, slow motion, terrible defeaning metal scores and some emo-goth shit?

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I just checked, and LICORICE PIZZA is slated for a March 18th release over here, with the press screening about a week before. As is often the case, Norway is way behind (at least it's not as bad as when I grew up, when Norwegian premieres of big titles could be as much as a year behind the US). But even though Anderson is hit and miss to me, I'll allow myself to have some expectations.

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2 hours ago, TheUlyssesian said:

What does dark even mean? I feel it is one of the most horribly vague and undefined terms in film criticism (right next to "personal").

 

What does dark mean? Serious? No humor? What?

 

Not painting a pretty picture, a particular interest to show the ugly side of humanity, cynical ... All the things I've been saying for a while now ... 

 

Oh, and then there's dark humor too (see Punch-Drunk Love, my favorite PTA flick)

 

 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, AC1 said:

 

 

Not painting a pretty picture, a particular interest to show the ugly side of humanity, cynical ... All the things I've been saying for a while now ... 

 

Oh, and then there's dark humor too (see Punch-Drunk Love, my favorite PTA flick)

 

 

 

 

 

So that means literally every single art house movie ever made? Or basically your average festival film?

 

I think only man-children thrill at the idea of watching a ZOOOGGGMMMMGGGGGGGZZZ DARRK film and get a hard on when they watch batman and think they have seen something dark. 

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

 

So that means literally every single art house movie ever made? 

 

 

It depends on where the emphasis lies.

 

Black Swan, yes.

Manhattan, no.

Der Weiss Band, yes.  

Into The Wild, no.

Eraserhead, yes (at least to David Lynch it is).

Frances Ha, no.

La Pianiste, yes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

I think only man-children thrill at the idea of watching a ZOOOGGGMMMMGGGGGGGZZZ DARRK film and get a hard on when they watch batman and think they have seen something dark. 

Exactly! Batman is about as dark as a clear glass bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Strap them in, and make them watch AN CHEIN ANDALOU. They'll soon find out what "dark" is.

 

 

49 minutes ago, AC1 said:

Eraserhead, yes (at least to David Lynch it is)

ERASERHEAD is just plain bizarre. Almost 45 years later, and I'm still trying to get my head around it.

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1 hour ago, AC1 said:

It depends on where the emphasis lies.

 

Black Swan, yes.

Manhattan, no.

Der Weiss Band, yes.  

Into The Wild, no.

Eraserhead, yes (at least to David Lynch it is).

Frances Ha, no.

 

Pardon me but to me Into the Wild is a trash American indie. So I will just discard that.

 

Frances Ha is actively a comedy so obviously it won't meet regular definitions of whatever dark is meant to be.

 

And Manhattan I would argue does have "darkness" in it. It deals explicitly and in a head-on way with something that might be deeply unpleasant to a lot of people. 

 

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

And Manhattan I would argue does have "darkness" in it. 

 

So first you claim The Master and There Will Be Blood are not dark by any stretch of the imagination, yet you think Manhattan (a bittersweet love letter) is dark.

 

Interesting. Seems someone here is deliberatly being contrary just for the fun of it. 

 

Just because some elements are dark (which I don't there is in Manhattan) doesn't mean it's a dark movie, not when there is so much counterweight to balance it out. Then again, what do I know, I'm just a man-child, right?

 

 

1 hour ago, Naïve Old Fart said:

Exactly! Batman is about as dark as a clear glass bowl of vanilla ice cream.

 

Batman is dark of tone but as long as it contains characters that stand up and fight for all that is good and righteous it's not different than any other good vs evil story. Quite different from The Master where nobody is good or where nothing is good anymore. 

 

1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

 

Pardon me but to me Into the Wild is a trash American indie. So I will just discard that.

 

 

 

Ah, so you have to like them or else they do not count. How convenient.

 

You are dark, TheUlyssesian!

 

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1 hour ago, AC1 said:

 

So first you claim The Master and There Will Be Blood are not dark by any stretch of the imagination, yet you think Manhattan (a bittersweet love letter) is dark.

 

Interesting. Seems someone here is deliberatly being contrary just for the fun of it. 

 

Just because some elements are dark (which I don't there is in Manhattan) doesn't mean it's a dark movie, not when there is so much counterweight to balance it out. Then again, what do I know, I'm just a man-child, right?

 

 

 

Batman is dark of tone but as long as it contains characters that stand up and fight for all that is good and righteous it's not different than any other good vs evil story. Quite different from The Master where nobody is good or where nothing is good anymore. 

 

 

 

Ah, so you have to like them or else they do not count. How convenient.

 

You are dark, TheUlyssesian!

 

 

 

I might have attempted to engage in a discussion but I realize it is pointless. We won't collectively have any meaningful exchange of ideas. So I will leave it at that. You can have ownership of that term. And I will continue to think it is a ridiculous term. We both win!

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If we wanna get semantic about it, I think I'd go along with a word Disco Stu mentioned earlier which is that PTA's movies are more "sad" than "dark". 

 

There are always these little grace notes and rays of humanity in his films that keep me from considering him to have a particularly "bleak" view of humanity, to throw in another synonym. I mean, The Master certainly is a very strange story with some intense themes but on its face, Freddie and Dodd reach a certain emotional understanding, then Freddie goes off and finally gets laid -- consensual, mind! As was his early tryst with the retail worker, and it's implied in his relationship with Doris too -- and then anyway, he lies down on the beach. There's a sense he's at some sort of peace. It's not the darkest outcome to leave you with. 

 

I think that's another important point in gauging the "darkness" of his movies is that violence is limited. I'm reminded of a quote he once gave an interview which was "If a movie can get out with a low body count, then I suppose that's uplifting." He said it as a joke but I think there's some truth to it. Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood have the most explosive violence with gruesome deaths I can think of in his movies and they're not really lingered on, much of it happens off-screen.

 

When I consider some of the truly dark, horrific movies I've seen, it's always extreme violence that jumps to mind first, that'd be my primary definition personally. There Will Be Blood has the darkest worldview of his films, in large part because Plainview is a truly violent man, physically and emotionally. You could argue characters like Barry Egan and Freddie are violent as well...Freddie is a pervert who will harass you and throw shit certainly, but I don't believe he's evil and Barry has a good heart, they're not sadists like Plainview. Barry's conflict with the Mattress Man is also resolved non-violently (interesting to note: The Master originally ended in the writing stages with Freddie decapitating Dodd; it evolved into a non-violent resolution). Characters like Frank TJ Mackey, Lancaster Dodd, or Reynolds Woodcock are dark in that they are manipulative, Alma is very willing to poison Woodcock of course, but...at least they stop short of murder? :lol: Doc Sportello is the only other major PTA character I can think of besides Plainview who kills or even intentionally hurts somebody, which is in self-defense. Oh and I think Sydney kills SLJ in Hard Eight? I haven't seen that one in awhile. 

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What is the benchmark for "dark". Where do we put Funny Games on the scale or Salo? Or for novels - Brothers Karamazov?

 

I don't think violence necessarily makes movies "dark". Tarantino's movies are filled with violence and yet they are often completely juvenile. 

 

So I think we lack even with the first articulation of what "dark" reasonably represents and what a usable scale could look like. 

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