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The Search for Purpose in the Films of Paul Thomas Anderson

Written by on March 20, 2017 

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We are officially in the year of a new Paul Thomas Anderson film — a re-team with his There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis, no less — but as it’ll be a bit of time until we actually get to see it, we’re looking elsewhere to help with the wait. Following a 2.5-hour series, a new video essay has now arrived to help satiate our ongoing curiosity with the director’s films. If there is one unifying theme in the seven narrative films of PTA, it’s the search for purpose in life, covered in a variety aspects in a new 22-minute video essay.

“I don’t get a sense of American pride. I just get a sense that everyone is here, battling the same thing – that around the world everybody’s after the same thing, just some minor piece of happiness each day,” the director once said. Indeed, by taking a closer look at Daniel Plainview, Dirk Diggler, Freddie Quell, Barry Egan, Doc Sportello, and more indelible characters Paul Thomas Anderson has brought to the screen, the themes of trying to find this purpose through rebirth and redemption become apparent.

In the video essay, created by Jack’s Movie Reviews, he explores the introduction of PTA’s characters, all usually harboring a deep loneliness, and how this isolation starts to whittle away as they become reborn by entering a newfound path, frequently accompanied by a surrogate family of sorts. “Everybody has a chance to change their lives. The hand that life deals you isn’t he one that you have to play for the rest of your life,” he argues as being the key thesis the The Master director is putting forth. In a way, perhaps it’s a hint of what to expect when it comes to his next film.

Check out the video essay below.


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