Paul Thomas Anderson’s PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE [10/10]

Boogie Nights and Magnolia are two of the most thrillingly audacious American films of the nineties. Punch-Drunk Love is, nevertheless, a quantum leap forward in every respect: watching it blaze across the screen, you get some idea how those Parisians might have felt back in 1895 when the Lumiere brothers turned on their projector for the first time. The art-form has been redefined, and nothing will ever be quite the same again.

This is, to say the very least, not an easy film to describe, though strictly speaking it is an Adam Sandler comedy: he’s Barry Egan, a hapless, somewhat dweeby loner who runs a small business selling novelty sink-plungers in suburban Los Angeles. Emotionally stunted and prone to fits of depression and violence, Barry stumbles into a romance with Lena (Emily Watson), an English friend of one of his seven sisters. He buys large quantities of chocolate mousse when he realises a marketing error will allow him to accumulate millions of air miles for relatively little outlay. And he’s also being viciously persecuted by a Utah phone-sex company’s extortion racket…

All this may sound like a recipe for some kind of desperately zany weirdness and in other hands that’s probably what might have resulted. But Anderson’s mastery of word, sound and image transforms unpromising material into a stunning emotional experience that dazzles on every level. Cinema’s rules have evolved in fits and starts over these 108 years — it’s staggering to watch one man come along and so beautifully shatter them all.

Neil Young
26th January, 2003
(seen same day, Warner Village Cheshire Oaks, Ellesmere Port)

Punch-Drunk Love : USA 2002 : Paul Thomas Anderson : 95mins : [10/10]


a reader writes from Far Rockaway, NY

my screenwriter friend was chatting to PTA after a Q&A was finished for PDL.
he noticed paul getting ansty & started to walk away,
then my friend said “what did the piano signify?”
paul kept walking with phillp seymour hoffman slightly annoyed (but not nasty)
& really not into having to explain this.
then,my friend looking to keep paul engaged awhile longer
blurted: “was it equivalent to the monolith in 2001?”
paul stopped abruptly;smiled, dazed and amazed said: