Boogie Nights

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds and Heather Graham
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
USA 1997
155 mins

Our last scheduled film was Double Indemnity - Billy Wilder's brilliant black and white film noir set in the anonymous and amoral landscape of 1940s Los Angeles. Flash forward 30 years to the same city in the late 1970s - the setting for Paul Thomas Anderson's sprawling, exhilarating and technicolour portrait of the 'adult' movie industry during it's so-called golden age. 

Mark Wahlberg plays Eddie Adams (AKA Dirk Diggler) the young nightclub dishwasher who becomes a porn star and experiences the highs and lows of the alternative side of Tinseltown. Wahlberg is just one of an extensive and hugely talented cast including William H. Macy (recently seen in the AFC screening of Fargo), the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle and Alfred Molina.

Boogie Nights is the second film by Paul Thomas Anderson, one of Hollywood's most interesting and ambitious filmmakers. His work includes Magnolia, There Will Be Blood and The Master - each of his films is very different in theme, often dealing with recent history and each stylistically quite distinctive. Anderson often eschews the conventional narrative forms of the mainstream and has multiple storylines running concurrently - in this respect he is sometimes compared to Robert Altman. His last picture Inherent Vice had many echoes of Altman's marvellous 1973 adaptation ofRaymond Chandler's detective story The Long Goodbye.

The Boogie Nights soundtrack is terrific -  spawning not one but two albums - among the very danceable disco hits are 'You Sexy Thing' by Hot Chocolate, 'Machine Gun' by The Commodores and 'Got To Give It Up' by Marvin Gaye. The costumes and production design are a delight in themselves - more than once reminding us why the 70s is known as the decade that style forgot.
Above all Boogie Nights surprises us with the warmth and depth of its characters - what in other hands could have been sleazy and exploitative becomes an engaging, funny and refreshingly non-judgmental vision of an extraordinary and sometimes bizarre cultural scene.