Last week, Film Club dived into the two Paul Thomas Anderson movies starring Daniel Day-Lewis. This week, in the final installment of our four-week series on the movies of this essential filmmaker, critics A.A. Dowd and Katie Rife tackle the other major director-star collaboration of Anderson’s career: the one-two punch of The Master and Inherent Vice. Then we close this month-long retrospective with our respective choices for the best of PT Anderson. Surprising spoiler alert: It might be the same film.
You can hear the entire conversation in the episode above, or read a lightly edited excerpt down below.
Katie Rife: Something that’s come up a lot over the course of these conversations [is how] Paul Thomas Anderson can tap into an actor’s essence and use it for a role. And watching these two films, I feel like Joaquin Phoenix’s energy is the opposite of Daniel Day-Lewis’ in many ways. It’s naturalistic, it’s loose. It’s the opposite of the controlled obsessive method that Daniel Day-Lewis uses.
A.A. Dowd: Interesting. I actually don’t know what Phoenix’s method is. Is he not a method actor?
Katie Rife: Oh, I don’t know if he’s a method actor. I just mean that his energy is very—I don’t want to say animalistic, because that’s not quite correct. It’s earthy. It’s very sexual. It’s not as tightly controlled. He’s way more of a wild card
A.A. Dowd: Oh yeah, he’s a livewire, for sure. Honestly, “animalistic” is not wrong for The Master. I mean, the movie kind of directly makes that parallel. There are times when he behaves like something of a wild beast, you know?
Katie Rife: Yeah, absolutely. In Inherent Vice, it’s more controlled, but still he’s a man who’s driven by his instincts. He’s driven by wanting to get high. He’s driven by wanting to get laid. It’s more of a base kind of energy that he gives off as opposed to sort of the higher mind fussiness of Daniel Day-Lewis.
A.A. Dowd: Yeah, the characters Day-Lewis has played for Paul Thomas Anderson are these men who have very clear goals in mind. They are these men who are driven by their ambitions, in many ways. I think you’re right. That doesn’t really describe the characters that Phoenix plays in The Master and Inherent Vice. Two very different characters in some ways. But I definitely see the contrast that you’re drawing here, for sure.