He seemed to court the laureate inheritance of Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman, among others, packaging “it” into something salable to young film school aspirants everywhere. Not a small part of his seductive, autodidact aura is the story of how he ditched NYU film school after two days. Perhaps more surprisingly, he survived insuperable expectations – earned by the one-two punch of Boogie Nights and Magnolia – and spent the goodwill, faith, and high visibility on licking one of the knottiest problems facing artists in all media: what to do after you’re a wunderkind. His subsequent output tended to wear lightly (if at all) the body armor of nimble, overachieving virtuosity, yet movies like The Master and There Will Be Blood share with the first films a forceful, productive impatience with traditional means of telling stories, eliciting audience identification, and conveying information. Above all, he takes care that even his most laudable technical flourishes are grounded by purpose and meaning.
What to see?
- The Master (2012) [Blu-ray]
- There Will Be Blood (2007) [Blu-ray]
- Punch-Drunk Love (2002) [DVD] [Netflix Instant]
- Magnolia (1999) [Blu-ray]
- Boogie Nights (1997) [Blu-ray]
- Hard Eight (1996) [aka Sydney] [DVD]