Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Shorts & Music Videos of Paul Thomas Anderson

Throughout the career of Paul Thomas Anderson, the filmmaker has been known for making projects outside of his feature films. Some related to his films and others that are just stand alone projects. The short films and music videos that Anderson made from the late 80s to the early 2000s showcase more of the director’s talents as a filmmakers. Even as it reveals his range in all sorts of genres including his taste for the artists that he admired.

The Shorts

The Dirk Diggler Story

Made in 1988, the short that was later expanded into his 1997 film Boogie Nights, The Dirk Diggler Story was a 31-minute short made in the style of This is Spinal Tap. With narration by Anderson’s father Ernie and Robert Ridgley playing the role of Jack Horner, the short is a primitive example of the ideas that Anderson wanted. A tale of a young man wanting to become a porn star, it’s a very engaging short that establishes the kind of ambition Anderson wanted in the world of film. If it wasn’t for this short, there wouldn’t be Boogie Nights.

Cigarettes and Coffee

Anderson’s second short film was made at a time when he was a production assistant for PBS. There, he would meet one of his future regular actors in Philip Baker Hall who would take part in this project. While some parts of the short would become the basis for his first film Hard Eight that includes Hall’s conversation with a young man, that is played Kirk Baltz of Reservoir Dogs. The short also features Anderson’s first examples of multi-layered, inter-connective storylines as it all revolves around a $20 bill and multiple characters dealing with issues as the short also features Miguel Ferrer as one of the characters. Because of this short, it got accepted at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival where it would also put Anderson into its filmmakers lab program. It’s an entrancing one that explores the world of guilt and redemption as it is one that fans must see.


A two-minute black-and-white short starring Adam Sandler is a break of sorts from Anderson’s usual themes. It’s just about a guy looking for the right couch as it plays as a near-silent film with Sandler being very funny to display his talents as a comedy actor. It’s really an example of how funny Sandler used to be.

Blossoms and Blood

The 12-minute short is essentially a collection of assembled footage from Punch-Drunk Love that never made it to the final cut. The footage that is presented features a wide mix of images ranging from funny to romantic as it is truly something that fans of the film must see.

Demo Jail

A comedy segment for David Spade’s The Showbiz Show was directed by Anderson in which Spade had to endure an intern who forces him to listen to his demo. The result is pure hilarity.

The Music Videos

Michael Penn-Try

While Michael Penn is primarily known for being involved with scoring music for Anderson as well as having a top 20 hit with No Myth in 1989. Penn does manage to hold a special place in Anderson’s heart as he would direct the video for the song Try from Penn’s 1997 album Resigned. Featuring cameo appearances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Jane and Melora Walters, the video was shot in a long hallway on one long take as it is truly an imaginative video.

Fiona Apple-Across the Universe

The first of four collaborations Anderson made with then-girlfriend Fiona Apple would be in a cover of the Beatles’ Across the Universe for the film soundtrack to the 1998 film Pleasantville. Shot largely in black-and-white as a diner is being destroyed, Apple sings the song while wearing headphones just as there’s chaos around her. The video features a brief cameo from John C. Reilly as it is another thrilling yet evocative video that plays to the spirit of the film and the Beatles’ song.

Fiona Apple-Fast As You Can

The first of three videos Apple and Anderson would make for her sophomore album When the Pawn Hits…, Fast As You Can is a video shot in many different styles with very striking compositions with Apple lip-syncing the song. There’s a lot that goes as she even eats fire in one shot. It’s a song that is all about Apple yet there’s nothing like it at a time when music videos were more about flash and big production. Anderson just kept things simple to make something that is unique.

Aimee Mann-Save Me

Shot to help promote Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia, the video was made when the film was being made Anderson inserted Aimee Mann in a scene for the film. With many of the actors from the film all displaying their sense of sadness as Mann sings the song, it is truly one of the most creative music videos that is made for a film as Anderson makes it stand out on its own.

Fiona Apple-Limp

The second video from When the Pawn Hits… is another very stylized video that features a long of unconventional cutting methods and a visual motif that is pure Anderson. The video has Apple singing the song in a home as she’s doing all sorts of things where it the editing plays to the manic energy of the song. It’s definitely a very strange video but definitely has enough style and visual splendor that makes it exciting to watch.

Fiona Apple-Paper Bag

The third and final video from that album is presented as a musical number where young boys in period clothing dance around Apple as she dances with them. It’s truly the best of the four videos Anderson made with Apple as he creates something that will definitely last. Not only does the song work with that visual presentation but it also shows the kind of range Anderson can do as a filmmaker.

Jon Brion-Here We Go

A collaborator of Anderson’s early films, Jon Brion was a key personnel who would be one of the reasons why Anderson’s first four films were very successful due to the music he make. For the song Here We Go from Anderson’s fourth film Punch-Drunk Love, the video is from the outtakes short Blossoms and Blood as Anderson uses Brion’s song to play on these many scenes that didn’t make it to the final cut of the film. It’s an effective video that displays many moments that played to the film’s melancholia.

With numerous shorts and music videos under his belt, Paul Thomas Anderson clearly is someone who respects the art form as he is willing to show sides of himself that isn’t shown in his feature films. While there’s a rumor of a possible reunion between him and Fiona Apple to shoot a video for one of her songs from her new album. If it’s true, it would be exciting as Anderson will always create something that stands out. These shorts and videos are nice accompaniment to the feature films as it’s an indication of Anderson’s talents as a filmmaker.

P.T. Anderson Films: Hard Eight/Sydney - Boogie Nights - Magnolia - Punch-Drunk Love - There Will Be Blood - The Master - Inherent Vice - Junun - Phantom Thread - Licorice Pizza

Related: The Auteurs #15: Paul Thomas Anderson

© thevoid99 2012


s. said...

Oh I love the videos he made with Fiona - Paper Bag is definetly my favorite!

Alex Withrow said...

No comment I write can do this excellent post justice. Only that (on two separate occasions) I was lost on it for roughly an hour. So... thanks!

Great distraction from work haha

thevoid99 said...

@Sati-"Paper Bag" is my favorite Fiona Apple video as well. I just love the direction, the choreography, and all of the little touches. It's a perfect video.

@Alex-I just hope you had fun watching some of those shorts and videos. It just makes Anderson more awesome.