The Cinematic Literacy of Paul Thomas Anderson

Punch Drunk Love
By  · Published on November 27th, 2017

The visual literacy rate of this director is 100%.

Constructing meaning from images is the bread and butter of filmmaking. Sometimes this is intentionally avoided (think mumblecore), but this concept – visual literacy – is the language with which this art form speaks. Grammar is its different camera elements and choices, the colors used, the lighting placement.

Someone that understands this perfectly – and whose use of it is easily seen – is director Paul Thomas Anderson. PTA embraces visual communication through the auteurism applied to his filmography.

A new video essay from Adam Tinius, pegged to release with PTA’s new Phantom Thread, analyzes the director’s visual literature through specific case studies in Punch-Drunk Love. The harsh dissonance isn’t just in the music, but in the smashing medley of images. These create far more meaning than the often surreal plot elements that pile up in the film on its surface.

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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).