****/**** Image A Sound A Extras C-
starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston
screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
by Walter Chaw Paul Thomas Anderson's maybe-second, arguably third Thomas Pynchon adaptation after There Will Be Blood and The Master, Inherent Vice is the first official one, as well as the truest. It provides a Rosetta stone for Anderson's career to this point, Pynchon's work serving as a template for an artist crossing genres while holding true to a certain standard of intellectual rigor, a certain florid prosody, a specific interest in telling true the story of whatever the times may be. Inherent Vice also offers a framework for Anderson's intimidating film craft, his particular way of marrying image with sound, and the extraordinary shots--unbroken literally or rhythmically--that have made his movies as much pop poetry and music as narrative. Consider the reunion sequence in Punch-Drunk Love that finds Shelley Duvall singing Harry Nilsson on the soundtrack while Anderson rocks the camera like a baby in a cradle, or the wordless opening sequence of There Will Be Blood, with Jonny Greenwood's terrifying, Kubrick-ian Dawn of Man overture rattling the soundscape. Or the Gravity's Rainbow opening of The Master as our hero, on a boat, sways in another swaddle far above his madding crowd. Remarkable stuff. Cinema as high art, doing things that only cinema can do.