“I really feel… That Magnolia is, for better or worse, the best movie I’ll ever make.”
The above statement is something that almost becomes inevitably true upon watching Anderson’s 1999 masterpiece. For the director, this realisation must have been a tragic, exuberating moment. Essentially, Magnolia is the perfect film, and when I think about how it fits within Anderson’s entire career as a filmmaker, I see his previous and later works as orbiting, drawing from and straying from the film that more or less defines him as a creative mind.
Boogie Nights came two years before the release of Magnolia. While the former worked around many of the same themes as the latter– familial dysfunction, loneliness, isolation – it showed clearly the development of what would result in the optimal creation a year before the turn of the century. When Magnolia eventually reached the public, the rich and explorative body of work that both these features comprised made Anderson one of the most exciting new talents in the country.
And let’s not forget his debut feature, Hard Eight, which I am yet to see – an expansion on his fantastically inventive short film Coffee & Cigarettes. While understated and not often associated with Anderson’s genius as an artist, this made its name among hard-core movie buffs long before anybody knew what was still to come.
The man who’d brought There Will Be Blood to the screen just five years ago — possibly one of the most accomplished films since entering the 21st century — turned just forty-two this year. He’d released his debut feature at twenty-six, and continued his immensely explorative journey since. And with possibly some of the most exciting and anticipated news in cinema, his latest project titled The Master just premiered – a drama following an intellectual and charismatic war veteran who starts up a “religious” organization.
There Will Be Blood proved itself to be a change of direction, somewhat distancing itself from the rest of the director’s creative cannon. It all felt a great deal more political, with development surrounding issues of capitalism, greed and ownership. Saying this, it should be added that Anderson’s fascination with human nature, and the nature of existence was still very much present, and is what helps make his films so marvellously distinct and fascinating to watch. The Master looks as though it will follow along the same path – perhaps entering new realms completely.
It is interesting to think about how true the statement made by the director all those years ago remains today, and how much truth it will carry in the years to come. Perhaps Magnolia is his definitive film, the sun in Anderson’s universe – but the creativity and unpredictability never stops.
Paul Thomas Anderson at IMDb
Paul Thomas Anderson at Wikipedia
Paul Thomas Anderson (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb