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Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks Book Review

“Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks” is a thoughtful look at PTA’s filmography.

Written by noted film critic Adam Nayman, “Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks” provides a deep overview of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master,” Inherent Vice” and “Phantom Thread.” The large hardcover coffee table book kicks off with a foreword by Josh and Benny Safdie (AKA The Safdie Brothers filmmakers best known for “Uncut Gems”) who express their admiration for the work of PTA. After that, we get an intro about PTA and the book’s contents before transitioning into an analytical look at each of the 8 films individually. In addition to glossy behind-the-scenes photos, artwork, and film stills, readers can expect an in-depth look at each film in an essay like fashion. Nayman covers everything from thematic explorations, parallels between his films, visual styles, narrative structures, influences/paired viewings (ala “Short Cuts” with “Magnolia”), recurring cast members such as Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and subjects such as the desires and delusions of the characters in “Boogie Nights,” Barry Egan feeling trapped by the San Fernando Valley in “Punch-Drunk Love” and the relation between the book “Oil!” and “There Will Be Blood.” PTA’s music video work and “Junun” are also touched upon in their own short section.

‘Masterworks’ closes out with 7 interviews with folks who worked with PTA like JoAnne Sellar, Dylan Tichenor, Robert Elswit, Johnny Greenwood, Jack Fisk, Mark Bridges, and Vicky Krieps. Topics range from film financing, editing, film scores, cinematography and personal opinions on PTA’s films. The interviewees also discuss their own work and collaborating with PTA (naturally). The book concludes with production and design details, an index, acknowledgements and credits. 

For anyone who appreciates the work of PTA, “Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks” is well worth picking up. Not only do you get an astute deep dive into his entire filmography, but Nayman really showcases why PTA is one of the premiere modern filmmakers. There aren’t many modern filmmakers whose work would be considered event films, but that’s certainly the case with PT Anderson among film buffs. Even if you don’t love everything he has done, you’d be hard pressed not to admire his range, ambitions, originality and growth as a filmmaker up to this point. Who knows, maybe ‘Masterworks’ will even show you things you never thought about or make you want to revisit certain works.

December 29, 2020 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , ,

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