Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chelsea's Top Ten - #7 - Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)

7. Magnolia - Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999

                To try to summarize this film in a short paragraph is futile.  Telling overlapping stories of approximately nine major characters over the course of one day in Los Angeles, Magnolia is about sin, shame, emotion, connectedness, father-child relationships, and coincidence, all in the course of a short 188 minutes.  Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) at the ripe old age of 28, a filmmaker whose films are now some of the most critically anticipated around, the film is rife with both youthful energy and wisdom that comes with long life.  As the story moves from character to character, the camera lingers on the depth of raw emotion in each remarkably whole person.  Then PTA pulls out the rug in a few incredible sequences that connect the people and the dots and show us how people are frequently the same – with similar longings and needs, and how the world is ultimately bigger than any of us imagine it is.  It’s a great film, and it holds a special place in my heart because it happens to be the first film I saw that convinced me that film could be more than entertainment – crossing into the level of meaningful art.  Not to mention that it has the only instance of a Tom Cruise performance I really like – now that is a feat!

Frank T.J. Mackey, a misogynist motivational speaker.

David’s Response:
Paul Thomas Anderson.

                As with you, this film had a major impact on my development as a cinephile.  There is something about Paul Thomas Anderson’s ambition that was and is exhilarating to me.  Firstly, he had the audacity to make (and somehow convince his backers to pay over fifty million dollars for) a three-hour series of character studies that climax in meaningful, yet truly fantastic ambiguity.  Secondly, and more importantly, his personal voice is so strong in his films that it not only demands you interact with it, but it makes it impossible to avoid.  For a young, fledgling film lover, this voice in Magnolia was a revelation – it was just as thrilling to interact with the filmmaker’s voice than the story he had presented.  Not to say that Magnolia’s story is weak, for it is anything but.  Rather, what this film does, as so many great films do, is seamlessly inject commentary on its happenings through the language of movies, both adding additional layers to its themes and reminding us of the real minds and ideas behind its creation.  More than anything, Magnolia reminds us that the most exciting portions of the film world are the quarters of production held under nothing but the sovereignty of skilled artists, where there are no laws by which filmmakers must apply. Luckily for us all, Paul Thomas Anderson resides in these quarters and has both the talent and vision to create lasting and transcendent cinema.

Chelsea's Note:  Paul Thomas Anderson has also directed: There Will Be Blood, The Master, Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, and Punch-Drunk Love.  I anticipate his films more than any others, and I believe he is my favorite filmmaker working today.  I would highly recommend any of his films, but with caution: most of them contain a lot of adult content, specifically in Boogie Nights and The Master.

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