Winning streak: Hard Eight (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007)
The timing couldn't be any more perfect for Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, The Master (scheduled for October). In light of the recent Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce bringing questions to the Church of Scientology, The Master's none-too-subtle allusions to L. Ron Hubbard's methods is set to become a real zeitgeist affair. Thus, PTA's name just might finally become a household one, rather than a name that's adored by cinema buffs but mostly foreign to everyone else. Though, come to think of it, Anderson probably would prefer to remain in the shadows.
He's from the same breed of reclusive, let-the-work-speak-for-itself filmmakers as the Coen brothers and Terrence Malick; Anderson will give one or two interviews per movie, but it's a privilege, not a requirement. It's that kind of resistance toward the spotlight that allows him to spend upwards of four to five years in between films, fine-tuning his latest drama until it's absolutely airtight, like 2007's monumental There Will Be Blood, which came out five years after its predecessor, Punch-Drunk Love.
Anderson doesn't spoon-feed audiences stories, either. Partial to sprawling narratives, the meticulous writer-director delivers epics on a character-powered, human scale; Boogie Nights, for example, which many believe to be Anderson's crowning achievement (it's a dogfight between that and There Will Be Blood, in our opinion), surrounds up-and-coming porn star Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) with a plethora of fascinating, well-drawn characters, all of whom establish their own identities and motivations and contribute to a staggeringly rich tale of darkness set against the glow of high-class smut.
Based on its early, hauntingly oblique teasers, The Master shouldn't be any less abstract in its dissection of man's dangerous willingness to follow the leader, even if said leader creates his own religion with the imagination of Dr. Seuss.