Archive for January 27, 2022

Pizzagate

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on January 27, 2022 by dcairns

I fell in love with Paul Thomas Anderson’s LICORICE PIZZA on first sight. But, as with much of that mysterious phenomenon known as romantic love, I find it hard to heave my heart into my mouth, or my two typing fingers, and explain why. I will say, because it may evoke some part of the quality of the feeling, that I got off the bus when I was only halfway home from Filmhouse, because I wanted a forty-five minute walk to continue to digest the film and to wallow in the state of mind it had produced. I absolutely can’t put into words how it made the world look different, but walking in a city at night (well, late evening, probably) seemed like a fresh experience. Had I been in LA no doubt the feeling would be even better.

The film was projected in all of its glorious thirty-five millimetres, on the celluloid. As it began, I started to recall how I’d come to feel that, though I miss film as a recording medium, there is a lot to be said for digital as a projection medium. The movie seemed to be actually flickering in a way that was not quite healthy. I could feel one of my temporal lobes going. But then it evened out, and I was glad to have the full film experience.

Lots to enjoy, including the traducing of Jon Peters (fully justified, according to every account of the man I’ve ever read). How did they get away with it, legally, though? Maybe JP is just a magnificently good sport. And the (hilarious) Julie Andrews joke? And yet, Sean Penn’s character, a seeming fusion of William Holden and Steve McQueen, is hidden behind a fictional name.

I haven’t read any of the books on Paul Thomas Anderson — I should try one, because I’m curious to see what a critic could make of them given enough time and space. Anderson himself doesn’t give much away, and the films seem to cloak their true intentions, if they have them. They dance away from the areas you expect them to land heavily on. THE MASTER, for instance, seems set to be an attack on the Church or Scientology, and it isn’t precisely NOT that, but by choosing as protagonist a character so damaged and toxic that you could hardly blame the Hubbard-substitute for failing to cure/reform him. So, fatuous bloviator that he plainly is, corrupt faker that he surely must be, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd isn’t offered up as precisely the hate-figure one would expect.

BOOGIE NIGHTS was easier to parse — the seventies nostalgia was sort-of uncomplicated, the stance on the porn industry seemed simplistically romantic, uncritical, when a producer turns out to be a child molester the regular porn folks are appalled, just as we would be, and so they gain even more in nobility. One of the stranger, to modern eyes, aspects of the seventies was the sense of paedophilia/ephebophilia nudging closer to the mainstream, which BOOGIE NIGHTS misses but LICORICE PIZZA gets. The fact that here it’s a 25-year-old girl involved with a ten-years-younger boy seems to slightly obviate the discomfort that for instance MANHATTAN justifiably causes, but the age gap is barely mentioned here — the subject of legality is raised ONCE, I think, and so, in a very PTA way, the audience is invited to make up its own mind.

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A week and a half later, does the film stay in my mind? Mostly just a very pleasant feeling. It’s a film with just enough implied darkness to exert a grip, while being 98% warm and positive.