Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview: The Conversationalist

Paul Thomas Anderson
Source: The Conversationalist

TC: Hey. 

PTA: Hey there.

TC: I saw your movie [The Master] a few days ago, I had a couple hours before the movie, and I went and picked up some dvds: The Passenger and Barry Lyndon. I found a sort of strange correlation between all the films.

PTA: I don't know The Passenger very well, I think I saw it, maybe ten years ago maybe twelve years ago, no maybe more, I think I saw it in 99, I don't know it very well, but Barry Lyndon I know kinda deeply and I just love that film. I think it was probably the last Kubrick film I saw and for some reason when I was a kid and I just kinda was intimidated by it, maybe how long it was, and I didn't really like it at first, I didn't get it. And years later I came back to it again and I just saw how funny it was. I mean that was the first thing that struck me, how kinda side splitting a lot of it was, and then in recent years I picked it up again found myself really really drawn to it and that film, that story and what he did with it.

TC: What I know of you, through a distant lens, you seem to be not only a lover of film but a scholar of film.

PTA: Fuck no, no way.


TC: No?

PTA: I try to keep up with everything. I try, but sometimes I feel like I'm drowning and miles behind. I don't know, I wish I knew films like Quentin knows films or Scorsese, those guys, I just feel like a faker. I try really hard, but there's so many things I haven't seen. See I have a bad habit, things that I do like I watch over, and over and over and over again. So I'm trying to branch out a little bit.

TC: Where there any films that were sources of strength for you when you making this one?

PTA: Yeah, Barry Lyndon, I suppose, just because we're talking about it. I remember watching that again when I was writing, but I don't know how much came into it. John Huston made a documentary called Let There be Light, that was a nice touchstone for us. I always just tried to have film noir stuff, Out of The Past, is a really big one, a Robert Mitchum film. Had that on in the background while I was writing to see if I could pick up any of the good vibes from that film. you know with a lot of those film noir films its just kinda the era. The guys coming back from the war, there's a lot of good paranoia in those films, a lot of good: watching guys trying to get their lives together, and inevitably kinda being a mess or embroiled in something bigger than they are, or more confusing than where they were.

TC: There's a lot of hardness in those films.

PTA: Yeah yeah, its probably a product of the time too, I don't know, I'm one of those people who pretends I've seen Gone With the Wind but I've never seen it. People ask me if I've seen something and I lie so I don't sound like an idiot.

TC: I kinda feel like you're someone who is more interested in the narrative moments and energy of the film than the overall clockwork.

PTA: I don't know. Sometimes just to put one of these things together its like stepping across a stream and you're just constantly looking for the most solid stone to step on to get across the river, and the great thing is you get to go back across the river when you get in the editing room and hopefully you know where the rickety stones are and you don't step on them again you just kinda shore up everything as best you can and have it feel right and hopefully take it all in with you.

TC: In the past maybe when you've written films you've been very sure to follow that path, and maybe working with someone like Joaquin makes you delineate from that plan or maybe that just feels better to you now.

PTA: I think that's a little bit of both, I think if I'm trying to challenge myself or If I'm trying to do what I think is exciting to me, or that feels right and that’s gonna be different when you're alone in your room and writing than when you're on the set making it and bringing something new to it. It's easy to overwrite when you're alone and when you get there the goal should be to simplify it and get rid of any overwriting you've done. That's my memory of this is that I cooked up a lot of caca-meme things and hopefully we got rid of all of them by the times the films done.

TC: Paring away from things that are contrived?

PTA: Contrived or some things are hard to write. Like a guy getting on a boat. As a writer you feel like you have to do a little more, explain more, and maybe you do, then you get there and you're seeing it in three dimensions, it's alive in front of you and hopefully you don't get slavish to what you dreamt up, you can step back and see what the reality of the situation is, just keep asking yourself how does this guy get on a boat? What would happen? How would this go down? Keep asking ourselves those questions, and come up with answers that feel good and hopefully are entertaining.

TC: That's a great moment in the film.

PTA: Yeah we had a whole bunch of horse shit stuff like him sneaking on the boat and sneaking around, and maybe they're suspicious of him and it answered more questions than I thought was necessary and it was better to stay in his point of view, and have it be like one of those things when you black out and wake up somewhere.

TC: I don't know if this is so much a question but the alternate footage in the trailers I thought that was cool, because it was almost like you were expanding the world of the movie, like the movie is a lens to the universe and there's a lot of stuff going on in this universe.

PTA: I like that, that's good. That's cool. Thank you.

TC: In one part I really enjoyed in the film, there's a lot of narrative structural elements interacting and it becomes clear afterwords, and there's a release of tension and it reminded me of some the writing techniques that Thomas Pynchon uses, and I wondered if you read Pynchon before you made this film.

PTA: Well I kinda try to have his stuff in all corners of the house and if have a spare minute you read through anything he's done and hopefully just try to get it through your bloodstream and hopefully it will rub off... I would classify myself as a Pynchon fan. Is that okay? His stuff makes me laugh so hard. The kinda dexterity and the humor, it gets me every time, I'm a sucker for it.

TC: Some people have suggested what they think are themes running through your movies and it seems like you're not interested in thinking about that.

PTA: No, I don't mind thinking about it, it's just a little like looking in the mirror which we all know can be very humiliating and embarrassing that's all. (laughs) You know, when you wake up in the morning and you keep the lights off and brush your teeth your head down, just trying to get a hat on and get out the door before anyone notices your hair or the rings under your eyes.

TC: Would you suggest a film maker or artist to look into?

PTA: I'm really into this guy right now, I can't pronounce his name, he's a Thai director he goes by the name of Joe. I feel like a real white guy not being able to pronounce his name. He made a fantastic film called Syndromes and a Century and Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Tropical Malady is another one, I just really think this guy is doing the coolest stuff right now, amazing actually. I'd love to hear what he had to say, but then again I don't know maybe I wouldn't, I'm talking right now and I kinda feel like directors probably shouldn't talk. They're probably better directors than talkers.

3 comments:

  1. GREAT interview. Thanks for sharing. There are a lot of great tidbits in there. Boy, I'd love to just have an evening of beers with PTA.

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  2. Did the interviewer really just ask if PTA read Pynchon as though it's not a known thing?

    Also, he mentioned Barry Lyndon and the Passenger as if he just "happened" to pick them up right before he saw the Master.

    Really? That's like finding things out about people before you talk to them and then acting like it's mere coincidence that you know about it.

    I hope PTA saw through this.

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  3. Yeah pretty weird. Should have just asked him direct instead of pussyfooting around.

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