Ethan WarrenMar 29, 2023
The Cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson
Columbia University Press 2023
Paul Thomas Anderson’s evolution from a brash, self-anointed “Indiewood” auteur to one of his generation’s most distinctive voices has been one of the most remarkable career trajectories in recent film history. From early efforts to emulate his cinematic heroes to his increasingly singular late films, Anderson has created a body of work that balances the familiar and the strange, history and myth: viewers feel perpetually off balance, unsure of whether to expect a pitch-black joke or a moment of piercing emotional resonance.
The Cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson: American Apocrypha (Columbia UP, 2023) provides the most complete account of Anderson’s career to date, encompassing his varied side projects and unproduced material; his personal and professional relationships with directors such as Jonathan Demme, Robert Altman, and Robert Downey Sr.; and his work as a director of music videos for Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom, and Haim. Ethan Warren explores Anderson’s recurring thematic preoccupations―the fraught dynamics of gender and religious faith, biological and found families, and his native San Fernando Valley―as well as his screenwriting methods and his relationship to his influences. Warren argues that Anderson’s films conjure up an alternate American history that exaggerates and elides verifiable facts in search of a heightened truth marked by a deeper level of emotional hyperrealism. This book is at once an unconventional primer on Anderson’s films and a provocative reframing of what makes his work so essential.
Ethan Warren is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and is the writer and director of the film West of Her.
Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics (Twitter @15MinFilm).