I watched Boogie Nights recently for the second time. I saw the fim a little over a year ago, and I can say it's changed for me. I guess I didn't appreciate the details and finesse of the storytelling when I first watched it. This time around I really wanted to focus on extraneous storytelling elements, such as color, light, camera work, composition, character design, etc, but found again that the story was too compelling to care for other details.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a writer. He can set the stage. Boogie Nights is a play. The actors are shouting at the top of their lungs, their range of expression and movement is larger than life. Why? Because that's the story being told. It's larger than life.
A movie about the porn industry in the 70's should be visually interesting, colorful, expressive, and fun. Boogie Nights is all that. The first hour and a half of the movie is different, but not disconnected from the last hour of the film. We see the character of Dirk Diggler succumb to the hubris and pleasure of accolades and praise. We see him lose control.
I feel the best writers understand that at its most fundamental level, storytelling is about creating a character with a strong inner need or desire for something. Every other detail is a symptom of this need, and the story paints this problem in color, and brings it to light. These people are pornographers, sluts, whores, not actors, nor could they possibly function in society. They are seen as druggies, infectous, grotesque human beings, who disrespect and exploit woman.
Paul Thomas Anderson knew where the story was heading the whole time. Echoes of the falls ahead were heard in rumblings from characters early on in the film; the inevitability of the porn industry moving to the home video format, the constant druge use, etc. As an audience member you're having too much fun laughing at the misadventures of the lead characters to worry too much. However, it all comes crashing down in the end.
Quentin Tarantino thinks of Boogie Nights as Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece. He sights the films playfullness and exhuberance as reasons why. It certainly has all that, but as far this film being a masterpiece, I would disagree. There's definitely an energy about the film. It's conveyed in everything; the constantly moving camera, the color, the acting, the dialogue, and the overall detail of the film. This is Anderson's second film, and he certainly delivered. However, I felt there were moments that could have been a little tighter, a little more finessed. He earns that ability because the film is so vast in energy and emotion. I don't think PTA did as well at painting the problem for Diggler as well as other leads in his other movies. Anderson does sight the scene with Diggler and his mother as one moment he should have pushed a little more. I agree. The magnitude of the disconnect could have been greater for Diggler, if the diagnosis of the problem had a little more importance.
But let's get it straight. This is still one of my favorite movies.