Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Avidly.
By Evan Kindley
“Doc stroked his chin and gazed off into space for a while. ‘You know how some people say they have a ‘gut feeling’? Well, Shasta Fay, what I have is dick feelings, and my dick feeling sez—’” — Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice (2009)
“It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.” — Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975)
The new movie by Paul Thomas Anderson is out, in most major U.S. cities anyway. It’s an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice, and you should see it, unless you hate all of Anderson’s movies (some people do) or Pynchon’s books (ditto), because in various ways it represents tendencies that have long been latent in each of their work, and in American literature, film, and culture more generally. I’ve seen the film twice, and found it intensely pleasurable, but I will try to show how the nature of the pleasure it offers might not be available to everyone, and how that might be a problem. Even on its own terms, it’s not a perfect movie — it might be the most flawed film Anderson has made, though I’d give the edge to Punch Drunk Love — but, like all of his movies, it is touched with enough greatness to justify the price of admission and bear careful scrutiny. Scrutiny (and spoilers) follow. Continue reading