I was at a Christmas drinks party at the end of 2000 and Boogie Nights was playing on the television [edited, no doubt]. No one was really watching it, but I obviously saw something that I liked and for some reason decided to tape the rest and watch it in the morning. I was fairly young at the time, and so the next morning, while I loved everything playing out before me, I couldn't stomach nor stand the last scene. I was somewhat disgusted by it.
Which is so fucking stupid, when I look back now. But I was young, and insecure about all sorts of shit, and a giant penis was not something I needed in my life. I'd constantly watch the movie, and stop it just after the final monologue of the film. Yes, I'd miss out on ELO's Livin' Thing, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
In November of 2002, after someone had suggested Magnolia to me, I bought it on a whim. I watched it that night and was...somewhat let down. I felt distanced from it, unaffected. The sound design irritated me. I watched it again, and again, and suddenly, one of these latter viewings did something to me. I started watching Magnolia once a day. The video diary greatly influenced the production of my short film The Cow Hunter of the South Seas, and the film itself helped me overcome my writer's block. In December I started my first screenplay in over a year.
Magnolia will always have a place in my heart for this reason, even if Anderson goes on to make better pictures in the future, which he no doubt will. The film that you obsess about and watch daily [and I think it happens once or twice to every teenage cinephile] is one of the defining pictures in your development as a movie watcher [and in my case, a filmmaker as well].
So, now I was willing to give Boogie Nights another go, and I got it for Christmas. Of course, I loved it a whole lot more than I had two years earlier [penis included], and I still think that Anderson's solo commentary track is one of the most engaging I've ever listened to.
Of course, I was waiting in anticipation for Punch-Drunk Love now as well [we didn't get it in cinemas over here in Australia until early this year] and when I finally had the chance to see it, I was blown away. For six hours, I had nothing to give. Emotionally, this picture drained me, forced me to invest so much of myself in it that I couldn't function emotionally for a good six hours. I was, quite literally, a shell. I saw it again in July, found myself laughing at the comedy a lot more, thing like that. I wasn't as emotionally moved by it, which made me a little upset, but still. I think that, visually, it's Anderson' most strikingly beautiful film [as Barry walks onto the plane, I hold my breath, every time], and I probably need to see it again before I decide where it fits into his filmography in terms of my favourites.
And then, finally, after months of procrastination, I bit the bullet and bought the R1 DVD of Hard Eight [a film that never got theatrical nor DVD release here in Australia, and one that it was almost impossible to find a VHS copy of]. Definitely not what I was expecting, but I felt afterwards that it made perfect sense that it was a Paul Thomas Anderson picture. For so long I'd been sort of ignorant to its existence, and yet now I couldn't imagine the PTA canon as a whole without it there, at the very start.
And that's where I'm at.