Paul Thomas Anderson likes to Boogie, and not just on Saturdays neither
Porn. A taboo subject for many in modern British society. Just mentioning the word can be enough to repulse any uptight square. Rewind forty years, though, and the porn industry was big business. A big, glitzy and profitable business if you are to believe Paul Thomas Anderson’s take on the industry through the 70s – 80s. From the get-go we are transported to the place to be in nighttime Los Angeles. The nightclub is booming, merriment is in full flow, as the camera guides us through the ensuing party and to the movers and shakers present, finishing on young pot-washer Eddie (Mark Wahlberg), viewing from afar and dreaming of having his own piece of the action. Akin to the legendary Goodfellas walk-in scene, it’s been done before, but this style of introduction establishes the story perfectly and even more glamorously than its predecessor. Eddie makes his way to the top of the game, transforming himself into Dirk Diggler, a name so grand it could never be created via the first pet/ mum’s maiden name porn persona generating game (mine’s Brucie Hanrahan, for the record). The good times continue until the bleaker 80s are introduced with a sharp bang and the industry’s success drastically declines.
Key to the films success is its characters, especially in the supporting roles with multiple lives facing the repercussions of their industry involvement. Downtrodden Little Bill (William H Macy) exemplifies the fact that not all are able to profit in happiness, as he is tormented by his adult actress wife’s overt and frequent infidelities. The outdated cowboy Buck (Don Cheadle) is told that in order to survive outside of porn, he needs to get a new look and evolve, mirroring the deteriorating condition of the porn industry as time elapses. Meanwhile, Burt Reynolds’ kingpin director is one in which the film gravitates around, as an endearing porn patriarch.Even the best actors need finely written characters to produce the magic. Both aspects work in tandem during Boogie Nights, with Julianne Moore’s character enjoying the hedonistic life on one hand, but on the other she’s unable to fill the void of the child she has no access to. Lead character Dirk Diggler shouts a claim to one of the best rise-to-fall stories in film history, as he becomes addled with personal problems and also narcotics. Diggler’s innocent nature at the start is contrasted later by his participation in one of the most unsettling drug deals on screen.
Anderson’s work excels in portraying the vibes associated with the covered time period, mainly through a stand out soundtrack, as equally well showcased in his most recent effort Inherent Vice. Some of the grooviest numbers are efforts from the aptly named Boney M and with Brand New Key by Melanie proving a fitting audio backing to an intimate Rollergirl scene. With the high points oozing as much cool as a multicoloured LED dancefloor and lows as troubling as a deflated water bed, Boogie Nights epitomises the best and worst aspects of the 70s porn industry to perfection.