December 17, 2017

Watch: 9 Cinematic Trademarks of Paul Thomas Anderson

What makes a Paul Thomas Anderson film a Paul Thomas Anderson film?

Paul Thomas Anderson has made films about aging late-70s hippies, WWII vets joining cults, a turn-of-the-century oil prospector, and porn stars succumbing to the excesses of the 80s. Suffice it to say that you can't really categorize his work based on genre, style, or subject matter. 

However, you can recognize the common themes and stylistic signatures the director uses in virtually all of his films, from Boogie Nights to Inherent Vice. In this video essay from ScreenPrism, explore nine trademarks that make a Paul Thomas Anderson movie a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.

Even though most attention goes toward the cinematography in Anderson's films, a joint effort (usually) between the director and long-time collaborator, DP Robert Elswit, his work is swimming with numerous indications of the auteur's creative influence, including the iconic characters, peculiar settings, and exploration into the power of religion.

But there is so much more to Anderson's interesting brand of cinema. According to ScreenPrism, you know you're watching a Paul Thomas Anderson film if it:

  • Contains characters who feel left behind
  • Is a sneaky period piece
  • Has expressive syncopated scores
  • Explores religion
  • Uses of dynamic camera
  • Demonstrates PTA's visual prowess
  • Contains themes about human connection
  • Has surrogate families
  • Teaches us to accept ourselves

What is your favorite PTA film? What are some other trademarks of his work? Let us know down in the comments.      

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