The film "Magnolia", which tells the stories of nine people in one day in Los Angeles, set the motto for its director's further work: "We are done with the past, but the past is not with us." Paul Thomas Anderson, the made this film in 1999 proved at the time that he belonged in the premier league of American directors.
Growing up in Los Angeles, he repeatedly dealt with this place in his films.
The fact that the past has not yet ended with him seems to be true in his latest film "Licorice Pizza", because it takes us back to the Los Angeles of his childhood, in the early seventies.
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In the now familiar Anderson tone, which is always slightly puzzled by his own stories, "Licorice Pizza" tells the story of Gary Valentine, a former child star who will one day become a successful film producer, but in the meantime wants to make big money with water beds and pinball machines. The character is based on Anderson's childhood friend Gary Goetzman (today a successful producer of, among other things, "The Silence of the Lambs"). But since it's not supposed to be a biopic, but a homage to the lifestyle of those years, Anderson lets his Gary discover love between the hippie movement and the oil crisis.
We first meet Gary at the age of 15 when he is queuing for the photo in the graduation book and is the only one who accepts a mirror and comb from the photo assistant.
As a child actor, he knows the impact of good photos.
The use of the mirror and comb primarily serves to address Alana.
The young woman is in her mid-20s, hates her job in the photo studio, but has no idea what else she could do with her life.
She will tell all this to Gary, who is ten years her junior, on a date to which he immediately invited her.
Just as she wonders at the restaurant that evening why she accepted the invitation in the first place, you wonder why the story of these two, who like each other immediately but can't find each other yet, works at all.
That one enjoys watching them flirt, tease, stumble for 133 minutes,
Anderson is loyal to his people, shooting with the same actors over and over again.
One of the regulars since directorial debut Hard Eight (1996) was Philip Seymour Hoffman – his role in Anderson's war veteran psychodrama The Master (2012) earned him an Oscar nomination.
Hoffman died far too young in 2014.
Now in "Licorice Pizza," Anderson's allegiance continues into the second generation, as Gary stars as Cooper Hoffman, the deceased's son.
When the camera scans his face in the close-up, you catch yourself briefly blending it with memories of your father and immediately looking for similarities.
This can be seen above all in the great talent of this eighteen-year-old.
The character Gary doesn't make it easy for him, she's actually much too self-confident for her age,
Alana Haim pulls in the rest of the film
Other films fall into the manic pixie dream girl trap at this point, that is, they turn “the girl” into a pure projection surface for the hero and his desires.
Anderson's script is smarter, as is his cast.
Alana Haim, singer of the pop group "Haim", takes on the rest of the film with raw energy, constantly contradicts Gary, helps as an accomplice to implement his weird business ideas, but also breaks out again and again to shape her own life.
This becomes clear when she auditions with a casting agent, to which Gary accompanies her.
When asked what hobbies she has, Alana says: "Krav Maga." The irritated agent asks whether that's something like karate.
"Well, more like the ability to remove someone's eyeball with a pen," Alana replies, smiling: "My father was in the Israeli army,
Director and camera know what they have in front of them, Hoffman and Haim could carry the film on their own, and they do it for long stretches.
In the adventures of that long California summer, everyone else becomes a supporting character: Sean Penn saunters into the picture as a caricature of actor William Holden, who first wants to seduce Alana and is then persuaded by Tom Waits (in homage to director Mark Robson) to take a motorcycle dare ;
Bradley Cooper rampages through Los Angeles in a white suit as Barbra Streisand's lover Jon Peters;
John C. Reilly waves in the "Herman Munster" costume, and Maya Rudolph cuts faces as a casting agent that say more than lines of dialogue.
With all this, can we still expect clever directorial ideas?
Absolutely - those who don't have a heart for teenage romantic comedies are treated to the most insane drive through the hills of the San Fernando Valley that cinema has ever seen - backwards, in the truck, without stepping on the gas.
Of course, Alana is behind the wheel.
After that you love her a little bit more and know that this film is exactly what the endless pandemic winter needed.Keywords: