Tuesday, 8 December 2015

REVIEW - JUNUN (PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON)


Music is humanity's gift to itself; Junun is Paul Thomas Anderson's brief, shabby, last-minute present, all handmade and high on good intentions. It's like the best he could muster up on short notice, though I doubt the notice was short, and I know this isn't his best. A better work could be made with this material, but the best thing about it is the material, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Junun is the modest result of earnest, respectful work by artists depicting the process of other artists' process; it is these other artists who emerge more flatteringly, and so they should. Anderson chronicles the production of a most intriguing project - a record (also entitled Junun) by Shye Ben Tzur, the Rajasthan Express, Nigel Godrich and his Radiohead collaborator and composer on several of Anderson's films Jonny Greenwood, in its recording sessions in Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan. The film is made with some skill, but the record with some more - Junun is a most pleasurable sonic experience, and given distinction from the recordings by the artful mix by Christopher Scarabosio, intermingling album content with diegetic sound. As a musician quite familiar with the processes of rehearsing and recording, I've always preferred the blissful abstraction of hearing music magically emerge from an electronic speaker to witnessing it live, though the film does evoke a sweet nostalgia for me in its depiction of those processes - long, lazy waits between sessions, and those moments where inspiration must meet precision, and a strange atmosphere (I'll label it 'casual tension') fills the air. Anderson gets this all right, though how could he not; Junun is all the right things in all the right ways, and rather little more.