Friday, July 07, 2006

An (relatively) open letter to Paul Thomas Anderson



Dear Mr. Anderson,

First: thank you. Your films are deep, moving and have affected me greatly. My favorite of your films is "Magnolia," about which I have some questions, specifically about its music and, of course, the film itself. I'm almost at a loss for words, which is rare for me, to say the least. I have so much to tell you and ask you.

I know you were only in your late 20s when you made "Magnolia," a work I'm sure many have told you was far beyond your years in filmmaking and maturity, breadth and scope. What, if anything concrete, inspired you to write this screenplay? The numerous biblical references therein? How did you get this cast, a cast of superstars and unknowns, together?

Second: as I write this, you are married with child to Maya Rudolph (congratulations, by the way)-- your comments on "Magnolia"'s soundtrack liner notes, in this context, are quite interesting. You say Aimee Mann's songs pose the questions: "How can anyone love me?" and "Why would anyone love me?" and "Why would I love love anyone when all it means is torture?" I am assuming that these questions are accurate representations of your interpretation of her work, I am aware that you were also much younger (hard to believe, but you started making "Magnolia" almost a decade ago) and I am also aware that around this time you ended a seemingly serious relationship. Since that time, you've made another excellent movie, "Punch Drunk Love," completely unlike "Magnolia" in every way. How do you answer those three aforementioned questions at this point in your life? Was "Magnolia" a darker place for you, personally or professionally, in the writing process? I know, from watching the DVD extras, that you isolated yourself in a cabin in the woods in Vermont somewhere. What was the process for "Punch Drunk Love," was it different?

To put it more poignantly, did you "wise up," like Mann said in one of her songs, and start living a better life?

Third: What kinds of obstacles have you had to overcome, particularly as a young filmmaker, not going to film school? I heard you got into New York University's film school and dropped out in only a couple of days, got your tuition money back and made your first short film. Is this true, first off, and second, if so, do you look back as feeling brave or scared? Both? How many times, since you started making films, were you told that you were no good, or that you wouldn't have enough mass appeal? Were you discouraged often? I am glad you are here, with us (that is to say "your audience"), today. I'm sure you are, too.

I've noticed quite a bit of Robert Altman-like techniquein your films, so its so surprise that he's been a mentor to you over the past couple of years. Are there any other key filmmakers, musicians (Mrs. Mann or Jon Brion, who I know greatly inspired "Magnolia") or other artists who have influenced and/or inspired you in some way?

Fourth: This is somewhat critical purely for the sake of balance, why haven't you been more prolific with your work in the last decade? This is mostly out of a selfish concern for my own viewing entertainment, but partly because I think the absolute best filmmakers worldwide, in the history of film are balanced well between quality and quantity-- in the past decade or so you've released three or four full-length films. Regardless of timing, number or semantics, filmmaking is hardly a race and I, of course, understand that, but fine directors like Richard Linklater and Wong Kar-Wai have put out that many films in half that time. Again, this is a nakedly selfish request, but could you please put out films faster? Maybe I should talk to your studio, instead?

Fifth, and finally, I want to emphasize just how much "Magnolia" has meant to me. When I first saw this movie, it was right before my father neared his final complications of cancer-- I rewatched the movie more than a year after his death, thinking that it would be too intense for me to handle watching it at all, and the scenes with T.J. Mackey and his estranged father were a brutal, unrelenting catharsis for me. I stared my emotions right in the eye and it wasn't as terrifying as I thought it would be. I think one of the many things "Magnolia" has taught me is that the inevitable never really is. This kind of redemption and love moved me so deeply I find myself, again, at a loss for words. Tom Cruise, whose movies I normally avoid, is a triumph in this film. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose character is easily sympathizable, and Jason Robards-- whose portrayal of a dying man haunted me for sometime and whose death after the wrapping of the film haunted me even more-- had extremely well-done, realistic scenes together. For most of the long, long movie, I forgot I was watching anything. I thought I was living the movie. In a way, I was.

Again, a million thank yous for your wonderful films. Keep doing what you're doing, (just do it faster).

3 Comments:

Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

while this was well-written, there was absolutely no reason to post this for others to read. It offers nothing of interest to anyone outside of PT Anderson. Just mail it to him.

7/07/2006 11:43 PM  
Blogger Konflict of Interest said...

Never.

7/08/2006 12:56 PM  
Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

you defiant whore of Babylon

7/08/2006 1:05 PM  

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