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Filmmakers

Book Review: Paul Thomas Anderson — Masterworks

Distributor: Abrams Books

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Adam Nayman’s (author of The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together) career spanning examination of Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography is one of only two books about the director’s work and the only comprehensive text that covers each of his films to date. Each of the director’s eight films is discussed and examined in some detail, but Nayman organizes his book quite differently than similar books. Instead of examining Anderson’s work in chronological order, he presents his essays in the order of the era that each of his movies are set (with the notable exception of Phantom Thread): There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and Phantom Thread. Anderson’s influences, his style, and the recurring themes of alienation, reinvention, ambition, and destiny that course through his movies are analyzed in enough detail to add enormously to the reader’s appreciation of these films.

This would be more than enough to warrant our enthusiasm for this volume, but Nayman also includes a selection of interviews with seven of Anderson’s closest collaborators — including JoAnne Sellar (producer), Dylan Tichenor (editor), Robert Elswit (cinematographer), Jonny Greenwood (composer), Jack Fisk (production designer), Mark Bridges (costume designer), and Vicky Krieps (actor) — and illuminated by film stills, archival photos, original illustrations, and an appropriately psychedelic design aesthetic. It’s a wonderful gift for anyone who admires the Anderson’s work and may very well earn him a few new fans.