Paul Thomas Anderson’s Fiona Apple “Hot Knife” Music Video (2013)

For his first music video in a decade, Anderson teamed up once again with his old flame Fiona Apple, crafting a video for“HOT KNIFE”, the closing single off of Apple’s new album, The Idler Wheel. It’s unclear at first glance what the shooting format is, since it appears to be large format like 65mm, but notice that it also incorporates Anderson’s preferred anamorphic aspect ratio. I’d suggest that the piece might be digital, but I ultimately suspect that it isn’t because Anderson has yet to use the format in any of his other works. This seemingly simple, deceptively complex look extends to the video itself, featuring a conventional performance that reveals a layered complexity as the song builds. The visual trickery that marked Anderson’s previous Apple videos returns in somewhat subdued form, showcasing Anderson’s discipline and restraint as his craft has matured.

Anderson shoots Apple against a black background, lighting her in the style of portraiture in an aesthetic conceit carried over from his 2012 feature THE MASTER. The color palette is even similar, featuring cream highlights complemented by neutral, desaturated tones. He mirrors the track’s layered vocals with a triptych of panels, surrounding Apple on both sides with backup vocalists featured in profile. The result is a subtle tapestry that visually echoes the construction of the song itself.

As of this writing, “HOT KNIFE” is Anderson’s most recent of his released work. Later this year he will release his seventh feature, INHERENT VICE, adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel. It will be Anderson’s first adaptation of someone else’s story, and will re-team him with THE MASTER’s Joaquin Phoenix while transporting him back to the 1970’s-era Los Angeles previously seen in BOOGIE NIGHTS. Without knowing too many particulars of the story, it’s not hard to image thatINHERENT VICE will find Anderson continuing his in-depth character studies of compellingly flawed men.

Anderson’s sixteen-year rise from maverick indie upstart to elder statesman of American prestige cinema has eclipsed his peers, and rightfully so. The assertion that Anderson is one of our greatest living directors is one that’s widely agreed upon by the international cinematic community, and while one might think this would all go to his head, Anderson has shown a remarkable degree of modesty, humbleness, and mischievousness that endears him where other pretentious visionaries might fall short. By merging old school aesthetic sensibilities with new school storytelling techniques, Anderson has directly inspired a generation of up-and-coming filmmakers while securing his own place among the pantheon of great directors.

FIONA APPLE: “HOT KNIFE” is currently available via the Youtube embed above.