Boogie Nights


A long time ago, I received a call from my then best friend. He was back in town for Christmas break, and wanted to know when we could see each other, as it had been a year since our last encounter. I responded that we could hang out at his earliest convenience. There was just one thing he needed to hear. I was no longer doing the things I used to do-the things Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) is so fond of at one point-, and wanted to make sure that was okay with him. He said absolutely, and that he’d stop by my house at the end of the week. He hung up, and I haven’t seen him since.

I bring this up because I think it’s something that’s at the heart of Boogie Nights.

When Kurt Longjohn (Ricky Jay) asks Little Bill (William H. Macy) if anything is amiss, Bill replies that he just discovered his wife sleeping with another man. Visibly distraught, he mumbles some more until Kurt says “Yeah, I understand”, and starts to talk about the next day’s shoot. Bill leaves and Kurt heads over to watch a naked couple on the driveway.

Now, consider the following scene. The Colonel (Robert Ridgely) has been put behind bars and he is talking on the phone with Jack (Burt Reynolds). After a while, Jack, disgusted, gets up and leaves.

Yet the camera is not on him, but on The Colonel’s face. He looks at the phone, then at the glass in front of him and cries out. But no sound is heard.

The moment is one of the saddest in the picture because The Colonel aches for somebody to listen to him, but there’s nobody there, the implication being that this is how everybody at Jack’s residence might eventually turn up. Trapped not in an iron cage, but in one of loneliness, in which the people who say they care are just going to give you a drink and a pat on the back until the moment you stick a gun in your mouth.

And if Paul Thomas Anderson understands our need to be heard and to belong better than any other current director (what is The Master if not a father figure embracing a lost man?), he also knows that you got to keep on rocking and rolling.

So he gives us a chance at love, and freedom and the greatest equipment store that ever was.

He’s right. A year after that phone call, I met someone. We’ve talked every day since.

He’s my best friend




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