I am a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. He is without a doubt a master director within his own right.
In 1997 he released his second feature film; Boogie Nights. There are so many things about this film which scream ‘great direction and writing’. Every scene is pretty much crucial in regards to the films form and structure but there are three scenes in particular (which I love), that are vital to Dirk’s characterisation, and in turn, the development of the narrative.
1. Just after Dirk stars in his first adult film, the audience is presented with a wonderful montage of Dirk fitting in with the ‘adult film crowd’. We see him dancing with a majority of the key characters to the height of 70’s disco music. Dirk not only falls into the rhythm of the dance perfectly, but begins to lead the dance moves. This shows the true potential of Dirk’s talent and his ability to fit in. It also shows how influential he is to the other characters. This beautifuly contrasts the unfortunate events that unfold later on.
2. The New Year’s party that welcomes the 80’s not only shifts the film’s mood from euphoric to catastrophic; it also documents the revolutionary change in porn and film making (the introduction of video tape filming.) The audience is introduced to adult film producer Floyd who tries to warn Jack Horne about the shift in market change, to which Jack shrugs his shoulders. This signifies the change in setting and foreshadows later events. Making Floyd, a small yet crucial contribution to the film’s form and structure.
Also at the party, William H. Macy’s character Bill walks in on his wife having sex with another man for the third time, to which Bill snaps, kills his wife and her lover, then himself. Very cleverly changing the audience’s perception of key characters and welcoming the catastrophic 80’s with a literal bang.
3. Now for my favourite moment in the film. Dirk has fallen to an all time low as he and his two companions try to con an insane drug lord. This takes place soon after Dirk separates from Jack and his friends after he felt betrayed; and now we see him incredibly high on cocaine which contradicts the fun everyone shared in the first half of the film.
As the drugged up lunatic dealer (Alfred Molina) begins to dance and sing along to the song ‘Jesse’s Girl’, the camera ever so slowly and methodically tracks Dirk’s blank expression (this is his moment of clarity.) As he realises how drunk with power he became previous to this, and how shit things have turned out for him, he understands in that moment that he must make it out alive and apologize to Jack and the others. This moment in the film is so gloriously directed and crafted.
Of course there are plenty of other scenes and moments which emphasise key aspects of the human condition but these are the ones that stand out for me in regards to Dirk’s narrative role in the film.
5 Roller Skates out of 5
by Sam Collins