George Toles: Paul Thomas Anderson

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Screenwriter and critic George Toles' study of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (University of Illinois Press) focuses on his more recent films, including Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, and The Master. Although Toles was already fond of Anderson's films, he decided to write the book because he felt he did not fully understand their complexity. His method of "reading" a film involves close scene by scene, even shot by shot, analysis. According to Toles, Anderson is more interested in the aloneness of his characters than in achieving narrative coherence. Although many critics think that Anderson's films are about the attempt to reconcile with a lost or absent father, Toles believes that the films are about an absent mother and the loss of the maternal impulse. Toles values tracking his deepest personal experiences while watching a movie. He likes to go so far inside a movie that the filmmaker becomes something like a spirit guide.

Read an excerpt from Paul Thomas Anderson.