Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Boogie Nights (1997)

Like the departure from Silent to Sound in Sunset Blvd. and Singin' in the RainBoogie Nights becomes a very relevant film when it talks about the switch-over from film to tape. The question that why would people watch a film in such a poor quality has been asked every time a major technological advancement has been made. Digital has pretty much become a norm right now, and the spotlight has shifted to the 2D/3D argument. Having become the most successful producer of adult entertainment in La La Land, the onus is on Jack to embrace the future and move on. The film is set in the 70s and was made in late 90s and lot has changed now from then. Internet has completely changed the way we consume porn. With so much of quality stuff available for free, I have never found myself paying for adult content. Capturing the glory days of the industry, this entire subplot gave this film a great depth.

Does anyone continue watching porn after jerking off? I have always had this doubt in my head and Boogie Nights gave me the answer. Patrons almost always leave the cinema after their work is done. Jack's dream is to make such compelling porn films that people cannot but watch it till the end. Pushing boundaries of the medium by trying to give the sex a context, Jacks's movies are still hilariously bad but certainly an improvement. 

Most of the first act takes place within the close-knit world of pornstars. They aren't ashamed of the choices they made and have learned to embrace this just as any other profession. A sense of pride prevails during the house parties and the self-congratulatory award functions they attend. They are the children of mainstream Hollywood's shady cousin. I often felt the film was taking a dig at Hollywood's holier than thou attitude towards adult film industry. Turns out there isn't much of a difference. The lack of acceptance the characters face in the final act of the film is a sudden contrast. Banks refusing to offer loan, Court taking away custody of a child, dabbling into crime, etc. In spite of everything, PTA's movies are very fair and characters usually get what they deserve, and this one's no different.  

Everybody has a special thing. Apart from being exceptionally well-endowed in the nether region, Dirk is just another silly young man who struck gold. The whole enigma surrounding Dirk's penis is one of the funniest parts in the film. The many reaction shots revealed so much without revealing anything. $5 to just have a peek and $10 to see him jack off? You gotta be kiddin' me! In this one scene, where Heather Grahams is blowing Dirk, the top of her head bobs up to almost reach his neck. Go figure! But the final scene ruined it all by showing Diggler's prosthetic dongle. You just don't do that! It's like showing the content of the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. Who cares if it's a MacGuffin. 

Anderson's debut feature Hard Eight had just four main characters. Boogie Nights, on the other hand, is cluttered with a dozen fascinating characters, all played by pretty great actors. This explains why he chose to go all out with Magnolia. Cheadle, Reilly, Macy, Hoffman,. they're all amazing and embarrassingly sad in their own way. A smitten Hoffman nursing a man-crush on Wahlberg, Macy looking at some random guy boning his wife and Cheadle's obsession with finding a unique identity for himself. Burt Reynolds, along with Julianne Moore, give the film's best performance. Looking at a stone-faced Reynolds calling the shots while another man was giving it hot and heavy to his wife Amber was deeply unsettling. There's also this unexpectedly touching moment when Graham asks Amber if she can call her mother.  

The film is an out and out tribute to Scorsese, right? From the long tracking shots to the great use of music, there were many elements which kept reminding me of films by Scorsese. The final scene was clearly Diggler doing a Jake LaMotta, who himself was doing a Brando from On the Waterfront. Boogie Nights is a story of a Raging Bull alright.