What Films Did PTA Use to Influence His Direction of 'Licorice Pizza'?

'Licorice Pizza'Credit: MGM
Paul Thomas Anderson is very schooled in film history. 

Paul Thomas Anderson movies have this feeling of a carefully crafted world and characters that feel singular to his artistic vision. Because Anderson's voice is so singular, it's easy to forget that like us, he's a fan of cinema, drawing inspiration from his contemporaries and film history alike. In his new hang-out movie, Licorice Pizza, Anderson is channeling influences across many decades of films and a variety of filmmakers. 

Check out this video from The Royal Ocean Film Society, and let's talk after. 

Right off the bat, I think it's really interesting to see comparisons to American Graffiti.

While Graffiti is not as sprawling of a film, I think both capture that coming-of-age drama and comedy so well. There are plenty of fun age gaps in that movie as well as pining, yearning, and deciding what kind of adult you're going to be when you're a kid.

One thing I didn't see coming was the homages or really pastiche of Jonathan Demme films like Melvin and Howard. There's so much to see in common between Gary's showmanship and Melvin's adventures and failures. The idea that the central theme of "keep hustling" is also prescient. 

Where I think the comparisons really take off are on the toxic side characters that had a little bit of Fellini's Amarcord in it. Much has been made about the people Gary meets, the men in particular. Anderson carefully crafts these role models to warn Gary about the kind of adult he could become. It also juxtaposes his still innocence with a world that is getting more corrupt the more he sees of it. 

In the long line of PTA's misfits in love, Gary and Alana fit perfectly into that weird sector of two people trying to break out of a funk to achieve something, without ever really understanding the direction they should be going. The movie gives them room to explore, and while the lack of structure might have frustrated some people, I think that's what makes this part of the genre. We're hanging out like Linklater lets his characters do in Dazed and Confused, though this movie obviously spans years and builds into something that has a lot to say about the flowing river that is life. 

Let me know what you think in the comments.       

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