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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 17:04 GMT
Punch Drunk Love
Newsnight Review discussed the new film starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson
(Edited highlights of the panel's review)
A man who is collecting thousands of puddings in order to accumulate air miles, but is being blackmailed by a phone sex company, meets a friend of one of his seven sisters and falls in love with her.
It's a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, who builds his films musically, which is one reason why, when you describe them in terms of plot, they actually don't make any sense.
Just from that clip there, you could hear how much was going on in the soundtrack, almost intruding on the dialogue. I mean the sort of, the mania of this character is very much expressed by the musical soundtrack.
To me the genius of what he's done is - it's a psychotic love story.
He's taken Adam Sandler, who I happily would have had tried for crimes against cinema for the hideous comedy movies he's made, the thing I always hated about him was I don't see a grown man finding the things he finds funny, funny. I find it sinister.
And what he's done is said fine, the sinisterness of that character is the centre of this character here, Barry Egan.
This person who's actually like a child, but a dangerous child. He meets Emily Watson, who up until now has suffered admirably in movies like Breaking The Waves, which I absolutely loathe, and has put her in opposite Barry Egan.
But she looks childlike, but she is every bit as dangerous and psychotic and twisted as he is. There are these two mad people joined together, and they're joined together musically.
There's a theme song, which comes up, which is He Needs Me, which of course is Shelley Duvall in Popeye. And suddenly you realise it's Popeye and Olive Oyl, and they are two cartoon characters living in this musical world, which he has entirely constructed for them.
It's an incredibly brave movie, because what it does is it takes a love story and turns it almost into a virtual murder mystery. It doesn't at any point, unbalance those two characters, but it shows you things about them, that you would never expect to see in a movie that's that short.
I simply think it's one of the best movies I've seen in years, and I would say it's only February, but at the moment, a strong contender for film of the year.
And it sets up this fantastic plot. The acting's great, it's hilarious. There's loads of wit. Then it just completely crumbles.
Nothing happens. You know, it sets up these fantastic scenarios, and then throws them away.
It throws away Philip Seymour Hoffman, to me, as far as I'm concerned, it throws away Emily Watson. She doesn't do anything.
You have this brilliant idea, well not a kind of like loads of ideas going on at the same time to do with privacy, loss of privacy and loneliness, to do with lots of people all being around you, controlled anger, anger expression.
Loads of things going on, the music is fantastic. It's beautifully shot. When you're in the supermarket it looks like those Andreas Gursky things - it's amazing.
And then it just all, it crumbles into dust. It's flimsy. It doesn't get me at all.
For example, you have the central character. He thinks that he's spotted a scam, that he can get all these air miles, but in fact a scam is being worked on him.
There are probably two sado-masochists. Everything starts to double up.
What's it's about is that love is this kind of ridiculous, random, mad thing that happens to people. So he puts other things around it - violence, and other bizarre happenings.
SAWYER (TALKING UNDER KERMODE):
This is a very young film maker. He's brilliant, he's working out all his little themes. That's why it's short, he's playing around with it. He's matching up, for instance, the seven sisters if you look at them, they all have noses like Adam Sandler, the brothers.
He's playing with his images, he's playing with colours, he's playing with themes, he's just having a good time. He's laying back like a musician does in the cut, to see how all these things will work until he does his next big picture.
I think it was just ice cream. Yeah it's ice cream, it's a fabulous 90 minutes, and that's all it is.
But there are also, he has like, for example casting Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights. You know, Burt Reynolds, who at that point was generally considered to be a joke, suddenly casting him.
Also casting Mark Wahlberg who nobody would have taken seriously as a leading man until Boogie Nights came along.
I think the genius of what Paul Thomas Anderson does is, you know, partly in the casting and partly in the scoring. If he gets the cast right and the score right, the rest of the movie fits into place.
I don't think that just because it's beautiful and entertaining and absolutely like the kind of movie that you want to take home and introduce to your parents, means it's light.
He can actually make a movie that he's working things out on and sell it to us, give it to us and just let us talk about it and then wait while he's working out his next one.
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