Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Boogie Nights

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

BOOGIE NIGHTS

9/10

USA 1997, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 152m

Welcome to the party - Boogie NightsPaul Thomas Anderson was 26 when he directed Boogie Nights, the same age as Orson Welles when Citizen Kane came out. What was that Welles quote about cinema being the greatest train set a boy ever had? Whatever it was, it certainly applies to Anderson and his riotous explosion of exuberant technique. Its as if he’s taken all the best bits out of Scorsese, Altman and Demme, shaken them up and edited them together in a non-stop visual extravaganza. Mark Wahlberg is Eddie Adams, a malcontent late 70s Valley teenager blessed with a 14-inch cock. This attracts the attention of Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), veteran director of adult entertainments, and soon Eddie renamed Dirk Diggler has embarked on a glittering rollercoaster of a career as a top porn star. But dark shadows drugs, violence, ego and, worst of all, video tape are looming with the turn of the decade. Andersons command of the medium of film is astonishingly mature but that just makes the immaturity of his script all the more noticeabe. Theres a basic problem of pace Boogie Nights hits the ground running, but starts to sag as it sprawls towards its third hour, with an interminable scene featuring Alfred Molina as a drug dealer and Anderson is so infatuated with just about all of his many characters that he ends up pulling his punches and handing out as many happy endings as he can, often veering into sentimentality. Hes also guilty of indulging his actors but then again this isn’t a major problem when the performers in question are the likes of Julianne Moore (outstanding) and Thomas Jane (even better). It seems churlish to pick holes. Which other director would even try a long tracking shot that follows characters into and out of a swimming pool? Which other director manipulates music, sound and silence as effortlessly as Anderson manages here in an bravura diner shoot-out. Hes like a combination of his two main characters he’s Jack Horner, who believes he can change the world with his films, and he’s Dirk Diggler, a young man blessed with one very special gift.

by Neil Young