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Boogie Nights

November 18, 2010

920. Boogie Nights
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
USA, 1997
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
First viewing


Ensemble drama set in the world of late-1970s pornographic filmmaking.

A varied group of misfits form a makeshift family around Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), maker of “exotic motion pictures.” Jack strives to make artistically valid pornography, a dream which is shared by his biggest star; Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), a none too bright but exceedingly well-endowed boy whose only talent is sex. Their reputations grow but, in the 1980s, the advent of home video severely reduces the production values of the industry.

Essential Scene:

Fellow actor Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) has made a documentary about the success of Dirk and his James Bond-inspired character Brock Landers. We see the grainy, amateurish documentary in which Dirk is interviewed.

Amber Waves: [voiceover] What about your character, Brock Landers, and what some people might consider violent attitudes towards women?

Dirk Diggler: Violence? No, what? I mean, if there’s a certain amount of, you know, violence or action in this series of films, you know, that’s the movie.

Amber Waves: [voiceover] If Brock Landers is slick with a gun, he does so only in the vein of good and right. Brock protects the values of the American ideal and fights for causes that instill pride in a society where morals are hard to come by.

The documentary cuts to a clip from Dirk’s 1981 film Brock Landers VII: Oral Majesty, in which a woman sneaks up on him in his sleep. He overpowers her, pinning her to the bed and threatening her.

Brock Landers: Who sent you? Who sent you?

Woman: Get the fuck off me, asshole.

Brock Landers: Lie still! Lie still or I’ll punch you in the goddamn face!

So you get the idea with that then.


Boogie Nights is technically impressive, right from the three-minute-long opening shot in which a camera cranes across a street then roams free inside a nightclub, introducing all the major characters as it goes. The bravura filmmaking techniques are in contrast with the more intimate scale of the story, regarding the dreams and disappointments of a group of people involved in the production of adult films. I think a second viewing will be required for me to tell whether I actually like it, or just appreciate the effort.

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