Paul Thomas Anderson and the Uncanny Influence of 'The Long Goodbye'

Here's an homage to one of cinema's greatest homages: Paul Thomas Anderson's love for 'The Long Goodbye.'

The Long Goodbye Punch Drunk Love

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the creative importance of Robert Altman’s The. Long Goodbye in the work of Paul Thomas Anderson.


Creative influence can be a magical thing. In the right hands, it’s admiration with a transformative aspect. A fondness and respect so great it inflects work that becomes impactful in its own right. It’s a cinematic lineage, a family tree that charts shared visual interests, thematic concerns, and larger artistic thrusts. Lest we forget: no art is created in a vacuum.

One of the most informed and affected influences in cinema is that of Robert Altman on Paul Thomas Anderson. More specifically, there is a vibrant and undeniable echo of Altman’s neo-noir The Long Goodbye that confidently reverberates throughout Anderson’s filmography.

The Long Goodbye is an irreverent and very 1970s take on the detective fiction of Raymond Chandler and the hardboiled crime genre more broadly. It is a serpentine film of untrustworthy rich folk, a missing cat, and Elliott Gould using every surface in the greater Los Angeles area to light his cigarette. Suffice to say: it is one of the greatest neo-noirs ever made.

It is no secret that Altman was Anderson’s hero. But the resonances between the latter’s filmography and The Long Goodbye remain truly striking. The video essay below unpacks the influence of Altman’s film, focusing specifically on its presence in Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and Inherent Vice.

For Anderson fans unfamiliar with Altman’s work, the video is an enticing carrot to dig deeper. And for those familiar with both directors, you may find there are connective threads you missed.

Watch “Paul Thomas Anderson & The Long Goodbye“:

Who made this?

Philip Brubaker is a nonfiction filmmaker and video essayist based in Gainesville, Florida. He has made a heck of a lot of video essays for Fandor, Vague Visages, and MUBI, in addition to short documentaries. You can browse Brubaker’s video content on his Vimeo page.

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(Senior contributor)

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