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Volume 91, Issue 45
Wednesday, November 19, 1997
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Let's get ready to boogaloo
By Brad Lister
G. Lefkowitz/New Line Cinema
"...AND THEN I TRIED OUT FOR SOUL TRAIN, BUT THEY SAID I WAS TOO WHITE." Mark Wahlberg shakes his groove thang in Boogie Nights (pssst, he's a porn star).
"I am a star a bright and shining star." Marky Mark utters the words that will truly become a memorable, immortal closing line to a film.
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's debut film is an Altmanesque romp through the land of porn and what an interesting twisted little romp it is.
Boogie Nights is a totally unconventional film about filmmaking which follows a diverse cast of actors, led by former New Kid/underwear model Mark Wahlberg along with Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and many others.
Anderson takes the audience on a wild and crazy ride that has a family of pornmakers journeying to euphoric highs (with Wahlberg as their new star) to crash-and-burn lows.
The film is unique because Anderson never tips his hand and the audience never knows what will happen next. Will Julianne Moore's character Amber Waves get her child? Will Burt Reynolds' character survive in the world of videotape? Without giving away anything, Anderson has crafted a set of characters, each one being their own ticking time bomb. Who's going to go off first?
Being a film about porn, one would expect only one focal point, but this is not the case. The film may be about sex, but there is a bigger picture. There are people in crisis and Anderson works their pain and anger to the full extent.
Noteworthy in this film is the heavily-stylized camera work which leaves the audience a little disoriented. Whether it be the close-up penis shot or the low camera that captures a lot of the action from waist level, the camera never allows audience members to identify with any of the characters entirely.
The artificialness and the heavily-stylized feel makes it interesting, but at the same time a little disjointed. The audience leaves the theatre a little flat and neither enthralled by what they saw nor repulsed. The film is genuinely good, but it seems possible to miss the point of the whole thing.
Boogie Nights works very well as a critique of the porn industry and what it does to people. The idea that actors will forever be pegged as porn stars is brought up a number of times and also the idea that there are nothing but freaks and weirdos in the industry.
Anderson has crafted a film which keeps you intrigued but ultimately leaves you wondering: just what is it all about?
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