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The evolution of Paul Thomas Anderson in five Steadicam shots

Kevin B. Lee, normally found at Indiewire’s Press Play, has a terrific video essay on Paul Thomas Anderson’s changing use of Steadicam over at the BFI’s website. Using five Steadicam shots from Anderson’s first five movies, Lee shows how his approach to filmmaking has changed, becoming less dependent on the influence of others—as in Boogie Nights’ amazing, Scorsese-indebted opening—and more likely to employ subtle shifts and small gestures to achieve the director’s desired effects. It’s an impressive piece both for the detail put into it, using maps that show the movement of Anderson’s camera through space that match up with the shots, and for the thought behind it. Sometimes film criticism is about digging into the nuts and bolts of shot construction and talking about how meaning comes from what a director chooses to show and how he or she chooses to show it. Lee does exemplary work here. It’s been a good week for that sort of film writing: See also David Bordwell’s exhaustive look at the style of Paranormal Activity, its sequels, and other found footage films.

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