Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paul Thomas Anderson Blogathon: Jason Meredith on Boogie Nights' "One Last Thing"

***It was only within the past year that I discovered the wonderful world of Jason Meredith's Cinezilla, one of the most adventerous, entertaining and informative films sites on the web. Jason and I have a lot of similiar tastes, so I was thrilled when the films of Paul Thomas Anderson proved to be yet another common interest. I find Jason's piece, an excellent and personal look at one of the greatest scenes in P.T.A.'s canon, to be particularly moving as it reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw Boogie Nights in a theater that opening night. This scene (which mixes references from both the world of cinema (Putney Swope) and real-life (The Wonderland Murders) is still one of the most brilliantly directed and acted moments in a film I have ever seen, so I am thrilled that Jason chose to pay tribute to it.***



ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD:
Jason Meredith

I first saw Boogie Nights in a freezing cold cinema in Helsinki, Finland. The temperature was so low I had to wear my jacket and gloves inside the theatre in an attempt to keep some warmth. Perhaps that’s how the ice cool Finns roll, but in a way it made the perfectly ironic setting to consume a movie that takes place in the warm, sunny California, as butt naked actors and actresses of the adult industry got their boogie on.

The Baltic chill held a tight grip on me throughout the movie up to that punch in the face at the very end of the movie, the scene where the shit hits the fan and the dream is shattered once and for all – the scene titled “one last thing”. A violent, raw and shocking scene that ends in a blaze and had me breaking out in a sweat, but also a scene that acts as a catharsis for Dirk Diggler, born Eddie Adams.

Dirk [Mark Wahlberg], Reed [John C. Riley] and Todd [Thomas Jane] decide to pull a fast one on Rahad Jackson [Alfred Molina] - a man whom Todd claims has ”more money than God and twice as much coke, cash and smack”. After filling up a bag with baking soda the three men take off to Rahad’s place to set their plan in motion… but Todd has a hidden agenda. As they seem to have settled their shifty move on Rahad, Todd whips out the gun he has with him and demands that Rahad take them to his safe in the bedroom. Rahad’s bodyguard pulls his gun, Rahad runs for cover, Todd shoots the bodyguard and Rahad blasts Todd in the gut with a shotgun. Dirk and Reed run from the house.




Now this scene could have been a random action sequence much like many others that we have seen before. But there are some great devices used here to enhance the moment and make it the most intimidating scene of Boogie Nights. Splendid techniques that elevate it above average and deep into masterful. Establishing something of a red flag as the men get out of the car, Reed notices that Todd has a gun with him.





Todd takes out a .45 AUTOMATIC PISTOL and loads a cartridge.

DIRK

What the fuck is that?

TODD

It's a big gun.

DIRK

I know, but why?

TODD

Just in case, just in case. Let's go.

The dialogue also let’s the audience in on the “pending threat” as we from earlier know that Todd sometimes get’s a tad out of hand. Todd has obviously played the plan out in his head and imagined that something could go wrong, so he has come armed. Combining that with a substance abuse it’s a fast track to chaos, we know that the shit can hit the fan at any time, and we don’t want that. We really don’t want that, as it could put a fast end to our empathetic characters that we have been following so far.




Entering Rahad’s house the tension rapidly shifts into the red as a young Asian boy, Cosmo [Joe Chan] seemingly unaware of the three men who just entered the apartment, continues to toss fire crackers randomly around the place creating a disturbing and intimidating mood above the loud music an obviously coked out of his mind Rahad is screaming along.

They're greeted by a man in a silk robe, slightly open to show some bikini briefs and a thin sheen of sweat covering his body: RAHAD JACKSON (late 40s).

Off in a corner of the room, a YOUNG ASIAN KID is casually throwing some FIRECRACKERS around.



Rahad is DANCING around by himself to NIGHT RANGER, "SISTER CHRISTIAN." He spots the men;

The track "Sister Christian" is significant for what is about to happen. It’s a song that Night Ranger’s drummer Kelly Keagy wrote after coming home and realising that his kid sister was now a young woman. The metaphor is there; it’s all about maturing, or coming of age if you will. This is precisely what is going to happen with Dirk Diggler in a few nail-biting minutes from now. Rick Springfield’s "Jessie’s Girl" and Nena’s "99 Balloons" work as poignant references to the burst of violence portrayed on the screen, a ironic statement that the party/Dirks non responsible lifestyle is over – "Jessie’s Girl" is all about not getting what you want, and "99 Balloon’s" about exaggerated force.





Greed is evil. Greed is deceptive, Greed is a devil, Greed need’s feeding... Greed is a pretty essential theme in Boogie Nights and it can be found in several arcs of the movie. The industry being the main one, as long as there is money to be made, there will be movies made. It’s the same greed that has The Colonel [Robert Ridgley] shift into video and leave expensive celluloid behind. The same greed that lures Dirk into the industry to start with - hunger for money, fun and excess of women and drugs. It’s also the same devil that motivates Todd into trying to swindle and rob Rahad of his drugs and money, and also what motivates Dirk being there as he can get his Corvette fixed with the money from the intentional plan. But it all goes terribly wrong and Dirk has a rude awakening.

There are some scenes missing from the shooting script at this point in the movie. One being the aftermath of the trip to Rahad - his death, but there’s also a scene that follows Dirk as he escapes from the crime scene. This lost scene tells the story of how Dirk, now fleeing the hazy world of the adult industry, which has come crashing down around him, seeks refuge at the only place of comfort he has left. Home, back to his mother, the only person who really cares about Eddie, and has no interest in his alter ego Dirk. Arriving at the place he once lived and preparing to go face to face with his parents, possibly to beg for forgiveness, the door is opened by a young woman who he knows from childhood. Sheryl proceeds to tell him that his parents have been killed in a hit and run accident and tries her best to console him. The missing scene also reveals the driver to be Johnny Doe, a young guy who was the next hot item in the adult industry, a second protégé of Jack Horner. In an earlier missing scene Reed tells Dirk that Johnny Doe was killed in a car crash. Dirk hardly reacts and goes back to the lines of coke on the mirror in front of him. Ironically the industry that made Dirk, also erased his one bond in the outside world.

The missing scene goes on to have Sheryl comfort Dirk, she praises him and points out that he’s at least made himself a name, he succeeded in becoming someone. He’s no longer that little kid next door.



SHERYL LYNN

You made something of yourself, Eddie.

She smiles, nods, points to the living room.

SHERYL LYNN

I have all of your tapes . . . I've seen

all of your films . . . I knew you'd do

something special with it . . .

Dirk looks and sees that she has a collection of about 100 videotapes on a shelf . . . the Husband looks a little depressed . . . the Baby cries . . .
DOLLY IN A LITTLE ON DIRK.

CUT TO:

186 INT. JACK'S HOUSE - MORNING (LATER)

CAMERA holds on the hallway that looks towards the front door. It opens slowly and Dirk steps inside. He takes his sunglasses off and stands a moment.

OC we hear some noises coming from the kitchen. Sounds of someone cooking something. The SOUND from the television.

A few moments pass and Jack enters the HALLWAY and FRAME. Jack and Dirk stand a moment, looking at each other in silence. Dirk looks down, fiddles with his sunglasses, loses it;

DIRK

Can you please help me?





But this scene never makes it into the final movie and instead we go straight to Dirk going into Jack Horner’s [Burt Reynolds] kitchen, begging for help and finally see Evelyn [Julianne Moore] console him. Jack being the closest paternal figure in Dirk’s life it’s obvious that he would go to him. Also it’s now that Dirk accepts that Eddie is no more. He could metaphorically be dead alongside his parent’s. This scene in the movie has the same effect as the missing scene gives, as the outcome is that Eddie embraces Dirk, and accepts his life within the porn industry. Paul Thomas Anderson wraps up the all character with smile inducing conclusions, through joyful scenes and happy music. The Beach Boys "God Only Knows", another metaphor, as we don’t know where the next road will lead to. The movie is bookended with a long steady camera shot much like the one that opens the movie and introduces the characters. Now we see how they end up within the story’s arcs. Finally Dirk leaves us with that last image of his livelihood as he prepares for his next take, Eddie is dead, long live Dirk Diggler the living legend.

So through the fires of the violent shootout, Eddie looses his path –his identity if you like, and has to re find himself in the tabula rasa. From the same flames he emerges as the legend Dirk Diggler.



Dirk stands up, unzips his pants and lets his cock hang out. He looks at the REFLECTION of it in the mirror;

DIRK

I'm a star, I'm a star, I'm a star.

I'm a star. I'm a star, I'm a big

bright shining star.

He puts his cock back in his pants, does a final karate kick and walks out of the room, closing the door behind him.

END



I left that cold Helsinki theatre filled with warmth that Anderson had induced. Warmth that lead me to feel that this was one of the greatest movies I had ever seen. Paul Thomas Anderson, was absolutely a writer and director that I instantly fell in love with and I found myself questioning how he could ever out do Boogie Nights? Luckily for me Anderson was only just getting started, and pretty soon the heat would be back on again.

4 comments:

J.D. said...

The scene with Rahad is incredible in how Anderson mixes almost unbearable tension with humor. You've got Todd ready to blow up and Rahad coked out of his head (I love it when he says, "Rickie Springfield! Close personal friend of mine!") and you just know that this isn't going to end well but you don't know how or when and Anderson builds the tension more and more and the music blasting away just puts you on edge that much more and you really feel and empathize with Dirk. What an incredible scene.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks J.D.
I was really thrilled that Jason chose to focus on this scene, as it is truly unforgettable and worthy of such a great article.

Scorpius Maximus Indicus said...

Superb article,loved the way you picked up certain scenes and dissected them.

One more favorite scene of mine in Boogie Nights is when Bill(William Macy) catches his wife Nina and her lover at a party, and shoots them both. The entire scene shot with a tracking camera, Bill entering the bedroom,discovering both of them, shooting them, and then shooting himself in front of all.

--- Ratnakar

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Ratnaker for the thoughts and for sharing your favorite scene as well (that one os astounding also).