The first time I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, and the second, the sexuality which gives the film its essential underpinning didn’t make much of an impression on me. I was aware that vaguely lewd things were going on onscreen, and I suppose I should have been more interested in–if that’s the right way to phrase it–Roller Girl’s proud nudity, in Amber Waves’s sad sexuality, in Dirk’s Diggler, but really, I wasn’t. In all honesty, the appearance of the film was more interesting to me–its flash, its swagger, its Scorsese-esque movement–than its insight into the porn world, or its sexual excesses. That may have been the point, but it’s a little hard to say, in Anderson’s case, because so often his films revel in the depths to which they penetrate, and sexual over-indulgence is certainly one color in his palette, as Press Play has indicated previously. Nevertheless, given that, the close-up shot is an effective tool for Anderson–perhaps just as effective as the long shot. What’s interesting is what Anderson does with the technique: rather than using it for suspense, or to drive narrative, he’s trying to force us to look at something, really look at it, and perhaps get lost in its strangeness for a while. The object could be a camera lens, a cup of coffee being poured, a zipper: regardless, Anderson drives us inward. And we find, as this excellent, if spontaneously executed, montage by Justin Barham shows, that the journey can be very exciting indeed.
WATCH: A Montage of the Sensuous Close-Ups in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Boogie Nights’