Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Criterion Collection - PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Criterion Collection - PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE on Blu-ray

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002; Paul Thomas Anderson)
Those of us that watch new movies with some frequency throughout a given year may begin to feel a tad disheartened at times. This is not to say that there aren't good movies coming out all the time, because I do believe that there are - especially if you really look around. That said, there's certainly a big difference between the "good" movies and the "great" movies that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. "Good" movies are great for making year-end top ten lists, but you can have a whole group of them and even you're number one film may not have the staying power of a "great" movie. "Great" movies are those that you can come back to over and over (maybe not every year), and when you do, they remind you how transcendent cinema can be. How it can personify and demonstrate things that you only abstractly have in your head or it can draw out feelings you haven't thought about in a long long time. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is one of those movies. It has now been fourteen years since this film came out and I think that what we realized at the time is still true - this is a great movie. It is by no means a conventional romantic film, but the hefty sensation of falling in love is woven into it so perfectly that it stands up to the best of them. 
Adam Sandler, who has never been better than he is here brings an incredibly humanity to the film's much-troubled main character. Sandler's character, Barry Egan is not a happy person. He is constantly anxious and awkward and often has thoughts of how he doesn't like himself. He comes from a huge family of siblings - seven sisters to be exact and he takes a lot of anxiety from their misguided attempts at caring for him - demonstrated by micromanaging certain aspects of his life. They call and check in on him a lot and generally seem to show little confidence in the fact that he can be a functioning adult on his own. In watching the film again this time, I found myself more uncomfortable with the sister characters. Were they too archetypal or was P.T. Anderson trying to create some sort of near fairy-tale fabric in which they are meant to be not-so-well defined and annoying. The scenes with them, along with the phone sex scene still make me uncomfortable and that mostly comes from a place of sympathy for the Barry Egan character and his perpetual awkwardness. This is not necessarily a bad thing in that I realize that the film wants to bring out the situations that inspire a lot of anxiety in Barry and that we as viewers should be made to feel, on some level, what he is feeling. It certainly works though, because I struggle with my own issues of anxiousness and the film truly affects me through that stuff. My favorite scenes though are the ones where Barry is by himself or the ones where he is interacting with Lena (the resplendent Emily Watson), a British woman who has taken a shine to Barry and who he is immediately (and understandably) smitten with. The film made me think more about repression and how damaging it can be in that it can come out explosively - in Barry's case in fits of violence. The upside though is that Barry also breaks through the repression of his own feelings and impulses with Lena and ends up having bursts of romantic and affectionate behavior as well. I adore the idea that love is this thing that builds up inside you (much like anger) and can fill you to the bursting point until you cannot stop yourself from letting it out in some way. While Lena sometimes feels almost like a fictional construct, I've come to realize that the film itself brings that about in the way it is all quite dreamlike. Things like the odd and random appearance of the harmonium in front of Barry on the street and that Lena appears to him for the first time soon after really add to the surreal qualities of the film. Jon Brion's remarkable score for the film also carries a sense of characters inhabiting a world that is not quite real, but with a creeping sense of both anxiety and romance (which fits perfectly with the Barry character). P.T. Anderson also incorporates color into the film in a delightful way. From Barry's dapper blue suit to the way Anderson uses the amazing work of artist Jeremy Blake throughout the movie - he builds a delightful and pleasing chroma scheme that is quite mesmerizing. Beyond all that, Anderson is a dazzling cinephile on top of it all so of course there are echoes of the works of great filmmakers that creep in here and there. He has said that he was trying to make something along the lines of a Jacques Tati film when he made PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE and you can really notice that if you are familiar with Tati's work. Barry's suit as a "uniform" is one thing in that it makes me want to draw a parallel between that and the films Tati made as Mr. Hulot. Hulot had his own outfit and hat that really defined him visually and I believe Barry's suit function in a similar way. Also there is a certain rhythmic and almost musical ballet of  movement that Tati often exhibited in his movies that seems to be present in PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE as well. The movie is overall just dripping with artistry and layers upon layers of influence that P.T. Anderson has so deftly mingled into his own, incredibly personal cinematic display. He is one of our greatest working directors and this is one of the superlative films of his continuously extraordinary career.

Director Approved Special Edition Features:

-Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Paul Thomas Anderson, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
-Blossoms & Blood, a short 2002 piece by Anderson featuring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, along with music by Jon Brion
-New interview with Jon Brion - You get a sense of the extremely intelligent and creative people almost immediately by the way they talk and how they describe the process by which they come up with ideas and get inspired. Jon Brion is one of those people. He makes me want to create some art of my own.
-New piece featuring behind-the-scenes footage of a recording session for the film’s soundtrack
-New conversation between curators Michael Connor and Lia Gangitano about the art of Jeremy Blake, used in the film.
-Additional artwork by Blake
-Cannes Film Festival press conference from 2002
-NBC News interview from 2000 with David Phillips, the “pudding guy”
-Twelve Scopitones
-Deleted scenes
-Mattress Man commercial
-PLUS: An essay by filmmaker, author, and artist Miranda July

Read Miranda July's lovely Essay here:

Buy PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE on Blu-ray Here:
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