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Punch Drunk Love

Posted: January 18th, 2004, by Dave Stockwell

We’ve got the Great Diskant Round-Up of 2003 finally on its way to your desktop in the near future, and I figured it might be a nice warm-up to proceedings to have a whinge about why not enough of our staff voted for Punch Drunk Love to get it into the top ten films of last year. (Possibly because it came out at the tale end of ’02 in the USA, but oh well.)

So what was wrong with it? Here you had a film that looked absolutely sumptuous, engorged with colour thanks to some extremely canny over-exposures. It was made by the man who made waves with the edited-to-shit-by-the-studios-but-still-excellent Hard Eight, appeared to be God after Boogie Nights, and who managed to divide audiences all over the world with the ridiculously ambitious Magnolia (me, I think it works, but I do have a propensity for three hour films not made by Peter Jackson). It had Adam Sandler in it, and he even acted well and wasn’t annoying for a second of the film. PT Anderson won best director for it at Cannes 2002. It was about love. And it had a harmonium.

So how come it got ignored? It seems that everyone’s into huge stories that arc over many films these days, and that it’s all about EPIC VISTAS and ACKSHUN, or awful “teenage comedies”. Critics said that this film was somewhat idiosyncratic, but it only seems that way because of what Anderson’s done before. Sure, it’s not entirely predictable and doesn’t feature ‘average’ people acting ‘normally’ for authenticity; instead it revels in the slightly anachronistic world that Anderson presents us with.

I feel like a right sap writing this gooey stuff, but I really value the kind of film that Punch Drunk Love represents in these days of increasing tendencies towards Blockbusters and Vomit-Worthy “Sure Fire Oscar Winner” films (check the horrifically bad adaptation of Philip Roth’s ‘The Human Stain’ that is obviously being held back for release on our shores until just before the ceremony in the spring). The idea of a personal touch on a film that does any kind of business at all is so rare these days that you have to keep your eyes open. My favourite film of 2003, which will be fairly obvious when you read our Round-Up, got a whole bunch of decent reviews in all the broadsheets, but I never heard of a cinema outside of Soho that screened it before it promptly disappeared without a trace. The only way I got to see it was by taking a plunge and importing the Region 1 DVD. Thankfully, it was worth it. But Punch Drunk Love was probably the best film I saw in a cinema last year (apart from a random one-off screening of Godard’s A Bout De Souffle).

Bring on the Round-Up…

Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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