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Paul Thomas Anderson named the film that inspired him to be a director

Paul Thomas Anderson recently reinforced his global status as a prominent filmmaker with his latest project Licorice Pizza which has already entered the coveted race for Best Picture at this year’s iteration of the Academy Awards. Anderson also nabbed an Oscar bid for Best Director, edging out other pioneers such as Denis Villeneuve.

Licorice Pizza marked Anderson’s return to the world of cinema after a long break during which he only worked on minor projects such as music videos and short films. Anderson’s last feature came in 2017 when he made Phantom Thread, his final collaboration with his favourite actor Daniel Day-Lewis who announced his retirement after that.

As a filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson’s entire journey has been defined by his obsessive love for cinema. Although he had his doubts at the time, Anderson had even tried to launch his career by attending classes at NYU’s film school but he dropped out after only two days because he could not tolerate his professor’s elitism and snobbery.

Thankfully, none of it impacted Anderson who would go on to create a filmography that is a full of well-respected gems. Like many other pioneers, Anderson has insisted that his vast knowledge of cinematic traditions were developed due to his own cinephilia and he has urged other aspiring filmmakers to experiment and learn on their own.

One particular cinematic experience had a definitive impact on Anderson and it actually inspired him to be a director. While talking about Jonathan Demme’s 1986 classic Something Wild in an interview, Anderson said: “He was the first filmmaker who made me feel it was within reach. What I mean by that is: He didn’t, he didn’t over shazam it, but he put some spit on it too. So it’s cinematic but it’s grounded as well.”

“I mean, Something Wild was just a gigantic turning point for me when I saw it: how loose you could be with the rulebook,” the director added. “You know, having people look into the camera, having three different songs play at one time, simply ending your film on Sister Carol looking into the lens and nodding and wagging her finger. I mean, that’s fucking amazing to me.”

What impressed Anderson the most was Demme’s ability to create a purpose behind each and every element within the frame. While it doesn’t share the same status as some of Demme’s more popular works, Something Wild remains an interesting product of its time and it definitely should be essential viewing for artists who want to know just how liberating filmmaking can be.