A clip from Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Inherent Vice

3 thoughts on “A clip from Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Inherent Vice”

  1. Ugh. My first reaction is that voice-over sounds as if it’s being read. I actually tend to like voice-overs, but in this particular clip, it defeats one of the main purposes of the technique. Ideally, a voice-over will draw you in, ironically even as it cements your position as observer at the same time. Or in a slightly more complicated construct, you are made to feel the observer (often the protagonist) is telling the story to you, which makes you a kind of intimate of the observer, who is also part of the story. In this case (at least in this clip) instead of someone telling you a story, it sounds as if someone is reading you a story, and none too well. I can picture the director handing the actress the book saying, “read this part” without rehearsal. It sounds rushed and the rhythm is off. Our connection to the story is broken. I hope this is an anomaly in the movie because otherwise it looks like Joaquin nailed the part. I’ve been reading the book slowly. Now, I might just stop and see the movie first. I think Anderson is extremely overrated, but that is another story… Regardless, I don’t think anything could stop me from seeing a film adaptation of a Pynchon tome.

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    1. I’m pretty sure she (the musician Joanna Newsom) narrates a good deal of the film.

      My guess is that that narration is probably necessary to hold the story together—Pynchon’s novel is already a shaggy dog full of Macguffins, but PTA is, uh, sprawling—he often loses the thread. I heard an interview with him about making The Master and was surprised at just *how* much of that film was made up as they went along. Opposite of someone like Wes Anderson.

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  2. Her narration of the trailer sounds more natural, so maybe that clip was an anomaly. I can only speculate, but if he’s relying on a narrator to hold the story together, that isn’t a great sign. The voice-over also gives the director a way to fit more explication and exposition – i.e., story – into the film. Another benefit is that he can include more actual words of the author. If Newsom indeed narrates the entire movie, that is an interesting choice in itself. On one hand, I like the idea of putting a new spin on the noir, hard-nosed, male, detective voice-over narration. On the other, that voice could get like, annoying, like you know, like, real quick.

    I’m trying to hold off on discussing PTA, because he is not that interesting to me. Maybe he will start stripping things away as he matures and begin making more focused films. I will have to watch The Master. Maybe it will change my mind, but, in the end, it may be a question of sensibility. I think “making it up as you go” can work well, especially within a fairly tight structure – and, needless to say, especially when everyone involved is talented. As many avant-garde/experimental productions (in all mediums) proved, unbounded self-expression without much narrative can tire an audience fairly quickly. When attempted in a relatively conventional film using conventional tropes, the risks are compounded.

    I have recently been on an Altman kick, re-watching quite a few things and discovering new things too. Did you know one of the first things he did (outside of industrial films) was a James Dean doc? I’ve been meaning to post it, but haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s online and well worth watching, for myriad reasons. I was also surprised to see, announced in a strange bit of self-promotion at the beginning of the film, his use of the signature Ken Burns photo technique – 30-40 years before K.B. I just watched the Altman doc as well. It was close to a hagiography, but well done. PTA, may have been influenced by Altman, but Altman was from another time and I believe infinitely more romantic. It would be easy to say Altman had more depth, but that might be uninformed and therefore unfair comment. In any case, Altman’s romanitc spirit was handy for fighting the conformity of the 50’s/early 60’s and downright perfect for embracing (and being embraced by) the revolutions of the 60’s/early 70’s. His sensibility and the culture that shaped him created an opportunity to make magic – at least moments of film magic. I don’t want to be reductionist, but PTA was from a different time and he walked a much different cultural landscape. Like I said, I’m trying to resist discussing PTA, but here is a quick way to highlight something about his experience versus Altman’s: PTA was ten when ray-gun was elected.

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