Thursday, July 28, 2005
Dear Paul Thomas Anderson:
Most people know of my distate for your films.
They're virtuosic, yes, but self-conscious and indulgent in an irritating way. Boogie Nights and Magnolia are heaving Hindenbergs, pumped up with every maverick technique possible. What comes across from your movies is you. When I watch Punch-Drunk Love, I see you grinning, not two people falling in love.
Maybe I'm just jealous. You're young, talented, making films that people think are important and lasting. You're also shadowing Robert Altman as the master directs Prairie Home Companion; it's your job to pinch hit if the 80-year-old Altman croaks. Not a bad gig. And people call you by your initials, for chrissakes. PTA.
So, to re-acquaint myself with you, I checked your trivia on IMDb.
Your favorite movie of all time is Network.
My initial action was one of anger, and retaliation. "No, you bastard, that's mine" or "What the hell do you know about Network?" But it must mean something, right? If your favorite movie is Network and my favorite is Network, don't we have some common ground on which to build a long and sustaining director-viewer relationship?
I thought about it. Network has a big cast. It's angry, in-your-face, symphonic. It aims high. Kind of like your movies. Maybe. It pains me to even write that. Don't get me wrong: Sidney Lumet is a far superior (and older, for that matter) director. Lumet did not get in the way of Network like you do with your films. Network is genius. Magnolia is cocksmanship. But their components are similar. It's just the execution that separates them.
So where does that leave us, PTA? Will I go back and watch your movies again? Will your style eventually serve the film instead of yourself? Who's to say. Probably not. But I will take some measure of comfort in the fact that you appear to appreciate Network as much as I do. You can't be all bad.
Get away from her, you bitch!