• Though it’s not P.T. Anderson’s true debut (Hard Eight), Boogie Nights marks the inauguration of a nearly unrivaled cinematic talent
  • In my 1997 review I called it a “sonic boom”— there’s such electricity and energy in the filmmaking. PT Anderson is clearly excited to make this film and is in love with his camera, film history (the work of Scorsese, Altman, Ophuls), these characters, this era, and this story(or stories)
  • A high-wire act of virtuoso camera movement
  • He humanizes these characters (the actors, obviously, should get a ton of credit for it)—in nearly every role of the 12+ ensemble it’s hard to picture another actor playing these parts—we have the romanticism of the first half of the film and the fall from grace and struggles in the second half (filled with ego, drug abuse (instead of use)) before the pleasing uplifting but tempered coda (to beach boys “god only knows”)
  • The film and PT have the camera romanticism and bordwell cinematography of Scorsese—but it’s also an ensemble piece like Altman (and yes—Goodfellas)
  • Sarris- “Not since the mysteriously reclusive Terrence Malick has there been such an explosion of sheer talent on the American movie “
  • I think it’s aged so well because we’re not in 1997 anymore where many critics attacked the film for being a copy of goodfellas or pulp fiction. I’d never put the film ahead of goodfellas but it benefits from not coming out in that films wake (much like Casino now) I’ve marked the Goodfellas comparison but the pulp fiction one doesn’t really make as much sense. I guess both have a unique blend of comedy and violence (or adult themes), both set in 70’s, and both are the sophomore effort (and clear huge masterpiece) from a wunderkind talent with clear cinematic roots
  • The opening shot (a tour of the dance club) borrows from the Copacabana shot from goodfellas, we also have shots (at least 3 scenes) of Dirk talking to himself in the mirror (from raging bull), and we have the I Am Cuba scene of the camera jumping into the pool in a long take (more so than the graduate)
  • 3 ½ minute opening shot is a wonder. It combines some slight touch of evil (opens with shot of car driving down street and characters getting out, to goodfellas (entering and touring club) and then has a 360 shot introducing 3 more characters (there’s 8 in total in scene), and then ends with a slow-motion finish introducing the main character—it’s sheer and utter brilliance
  • I didn’t notice this before but we have the exaggerated sound and mini-montage editing of the drinks, drug use, clinking of the class, coffee— much like Aronofsky’s requiem (this is 3 years earlier)
  • The soundtrack/music is dazzling (also led to Scorsese and Tarantino comparisons). I’ve loved the songs and their meaning but this is the first time I’ve really paused on Michael Penn’s mournful pipe organ (“the big top”) intro. There’s melancholy there and it comes back at the end. I think it shows the highs and lows of the characters. It also would come back with punch drunk and that organ music Barry plays
  • After the brilliant opening we see many characters not fitting in in their “normal” life—we have Amber (Julianne Moore) on the phone arguing about custody of her son with her Ex, we have Roller Girl (Graham) struggling with a test in school and a guy mocking her, we have Dirk in a fight with his mom, we have Cheadle not getting a stereo sale and fighting with boss—these characters need their world
  • The casting of Wahlberg isn’t that far off from reality—21 years old he was picked up for the Calvin Klein underwear model stuff
  • This ensemble piece is a surrogate family (like goodfellas again)—Jack’s (Burt Reynold) house is the center, he’s the surrogate father, and Moore is the surrogate mother
  • Early in the film we have Wahlberg getting thrown out of his house by his mother and then we juxtaposed this scene with Reynolds welcoming him with open arms in the next
  • Another Scorseseism is the triple take edit montage intro of the Colonel—Same again later with the Phillip Baker Hall character
  • So we have 4 huge formally important tracking shots—one is the intro to the film and tour of the club, the second is the intro of the party at Jack’s, the start of the high 70’s period (this makes a great bookend with #4 tracking shot I’ll get to in a second, the third is the tragic death of Little Bill (I’ll get to that scenes importance in a second) and then the final tour of Jack’s house again with the family restored
  • That second key tracking shot has the pool I am Cuba tracking shot in the pool- another starry-eyed intro into an inviting world/family
  • Scottie—Philp Seymour Hoffman character- a great character- probably the 11th great character at this point, isn’t introduced until 40 minutes in
  • It is a hilarious screenplay. Jack says “The Colonel puts up all the money for the films. It’s an important part of the process”
  • PT isn’t just laying the visual formal work with stupefying tracking shots (he is)—he’s busy even outside of that- we have long sedentary takes to hold and emphasize (PSH breaking down in the car after going after kissing Dirk—a long hold during Jessie’s Girl on a Dirk zoning out- a shot I love) but there’s other magnificent busyness and cinematic affectations of film style- an iris in on Dirk when Scottie first meets him, the name “Dirk Diggler” in lights and the dance sequence in the club with the choreographed dancing like out of a musical
  • This is a family— Moore calls him “my baby boy” and there’s that “will you be my mom” sequence with her and roller girl. In the last tracking shot, through Jack’s house again, there’s no drugs, booze, loud music (somber Beach Boys) we have Cheadle’s son in the pool and Jack telling Roller Girl to clean her room
  • Reoccurring shot of people amazed by Dirk’s talent
  • Great formal rigor in the rise and fall. Half way into the film we have the New Year’s party at Jack’s. This is hugely significant. It’s the turning point to the 1980’s, it’s the first time we see Dirk doing coke with Amber (his addiction starts), we have Macy’s suicide/murder, we have the introduction of the really only evil character in the film, Todd Parker, and we have Jack meeting Baker Hall who talks about how film is ending and video and amateurs is the way to go in the 1980’s. It’s a major turn.
  • There’s real depth here with identity—“Brock Landers is a character I’m playing. I’m Dirk Diggler” (which, of course, he isn’t)
  • Another brilliant 360 shot as they plan the Molina drug robbery
  • Décor has great detail of the fashion of the era- the faux rock walls
  • PT’s choice to have the firecrackers in the Molna scene ratchets it up
  • Tremendous scene of connection when Dirk comes back to the family and apologizes to Jack and Amber- very touching
  • Masterpiece