One event that many of us film fanatics were especially excited about this winter, was the release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s ninth feature film, Licorice Pizza. Paul Thomas Anderson, who’s such a 21st century icon that his name is often abbreviated to PTA, is a writer and director who has been in the limelight for showing the dark heart of humanity’s past and present since the 90’s. With Licorice Pizza, he may have made his most lighthearted and optimistic film to date. Even though the film does not contain the usual dark-heartedness and forceful aggressive vibe he is known for, he has again shown us what I personally find his strongest quality as a teller of tales, which is the truthfulness of portraying humans as human as they can be.
It is especially the human men from his films that give me life. Many protagonist-boys from PTA films remind me a lot of the men I used to find attractive when I was younger and easily impressionable. The men I fell for were easy talkers, masculine yet charming, successful, intelligent and authoritive. However, these are also the men that, the moment you’ve gotten attached to them, they turn into master manipulators, selfish, uncomfortably aggressive with a narcissistic cherry on top. Men, who, in the course of time, will eventually, always, choose for themselves. These are boys better known as fuckboys. PTA understands them like no other, and has been making us fall in love with them and telling their tales throughout his oeuvre.
However, PTA gives us much more than solely the fuckboy flavor. He introduces us to countless prototypes of people who are in the likelihood of people we may have met in our lives. He shows us characters suffering from deep sorrow, unbeatable addiction, extreme paranoia, powerful love and indestructible love, often played by his solid squad of stellar actors, oftentimes with sensational performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s sudden death 8 years ago we are remembering today on the day of our recording. Throughout the darkness, there is always one thing that PTA gives us to pull us out from human agony. He never forgets to make us dance. PTA films are musicals of the groovy.
Today, we will not discuss Licorice Pizza, or maybe we will for a bit, but I’d prefer to talk another stunning PTA film which came out in 1998, called Boogie Nights. Boogie Nights is a film that takes place in California in the 70’s: a story about the discovery of an upcoming porn actor, who goes by the name of Dirk Diggler. As we follow Dirk along on his way to fame, fortune, and hot girls, we get a deeper understanding of the ethos and pathos of old American porn business, of how social inequality manifests itself in darkest corners, but primarily, we get an insight of the struggles that come with being a boy with a big penis.