Job by Alexis Lebrun July 6, 2022
Greatly forgotten from the last Oscars evening, the Californian director’s new feature film is one of the most beautiful films of the year 2022. A tribute to a bygone and fantasized era (the Los Angeles of the 1970s), LICORICE PIZZA brings us carries away by telling an electrifying romance, embodied by two magnificent rookie actors.
First there is this mysterious title, which sums up the whole spirit of the film, and which is literally translated as “liquorice pizza”, but which actually refers to a chain of record stores – LICORICE PIZZA therefore – , present in California during the youth of Paul Thomas Anderson. This choice also illustrates to what extent this film represents a personal project for its director, since he grew up in the San Fernando Valley (located in Los Angeles) where the characters of LICORICE PIZZA evolve. These characters are Gary and Alana, two teenagers who meet in 1973 in the high school of the first on the occasion of the inevitable class photo. Alana is an assistant photographer, and she immediately catches the eye of Gary, a confident child actor who doesn’t hesitate to invite her to dinner. Despite the age difference that separates them, a friendly connection is established between them, and they have a series of misadventures according to Gary’s more or less shoddy projects (selling waterbeds, opening a pinball machine, etc.) and of his overflowing entrepreneurial spirit.
During their wanderings in the “City of Angels”, they notably come across an old nerdy actor (played by… Sean Penn) and its director (Tom Waits), Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper), Barbra Streisand’s totally lit hairdresser, and Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie), candidate for mayor of Los Angeles who must hide his homosexuality. But the real stars of the cast are Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim, launched into the grain bath by Paul Thomas Anderson, since this is the first time they have appeared in the cinema. The choice of these rookie actors to play the two main characters is a great idea: the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman – favorite actor of PT Anderson, tragically deceased in 2014 – and the singer of the group Haim – whose all clips were directed by PT Anderson – magnificently embody this very special and let’s say it, ungrateful age of adolescence. And the chemistry of the couple they form is totally disarmingly natural.
The twin brother of the last Tarantino
An intimate film about the first emotions of love and the pangs of the transition to adulthood, LICORICE PIZZA is not yet another stereotypical romantic comedy about adolescence. With his usual virtuosity, Paul Thomas Anderson also captures the innocence of a dying world, the Los Angeles of 1973 which is about to be hit hard by the first oil shock, superbly illustrated in the film by a long traveling accompanied by of “Life on Mars? by David Bowie, one of many hits from a memorable soundtrack – LICORICE PIZZA also being a slang term for a vinyl record. An outstanding screenwriter, PT Anderson is also quite the cinematographer, and the introductory sequence shot immediately sets the tone for a feature film that strikes with the beauty of its photography, captured with 35 mm film and lenses from 1970s to recapture the look of films of the time.
Obviously, we immediately understand why LICORICE PIZZA was considered on its release as the twin of a certain ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (2019), where Quentin Tarantino had also put the package on the reproduction or even the fetishization of a certain era of Los Angeles, in this case the end of the 1960s and the hippie dream in Hollywood, symbolized by the crimes of the Manson family, and the shelving of a now nerdy actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), whose we followed the galleys in the company of his regular stuntman (Brad Pitt).
But LICORICE PIZZA is also very directly reminiscent of the timeless AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1974) by George Lucas, which depicts the nocturnal adventures of Californian teenagers in the early 1960s, a period of rock ‘n’ roll explosion. As for Paul Thomas Anderson, he finally returns to the time of his Californian childhood – he was born in 1970 –, already evoked in a very different way in BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), a great film on the world of porn, but also INHERENT VICE (2014), ambitious thriller adapted from the work of Thomas Pynchon. When you know that PT Anderson has also produced masterpieces as MAGNOLIA (1999) and THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)we have only one desire: to review all of his filmography while waiting for his next project.
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LICORICE PIZZA, Paul Thomas Anderson’s new masterpiece | myCANAL
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