Junun Premiere at ACE Theatre
Paul Thomas Anderson Newest Documentary
Paul Thomas Anderson took the stage at the the Ace Theatre last Sunday before the LA premiere of his new music documentary, Junun, to welcome the audience and apologize in advance for being an “asshole” for not participating in the “mandatory Q&A” that seems to follow every film screening big and small these days. He preferred that the audience carry the joyous music of the film with them out into the night.
Opening with a riveting 360 degree continuous take, Junun, drops the viewer immediately into the recording session collaboration between Israeli multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Shye Ben Tzur and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (who had previously collaborated with Anderson by providing the alternately oblique and dramatic score for Anderson’s There Will Be Blood)
The performers remain unnamed (until the end) yet we have an intimate connection with their process to work out and perfect the compositions. Aerial drone and other landscape shots reveal the locale as the converted Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan in Northwestern India. The frequent disruption of power in India becomes a running joke and the sessions are often interrupted leaving the musicians to patiently wait it out or grab a nap in the corner.
In one particularly compelling sequence two female vocalists are being coached to sing in a language they don’t speak. Being the professionals they are, they take it in stride and we see how when they finally record their part, it soars. The audience cheered in the theater as they might have for a live performance.
Anderson keeps the filmic technique simple, organic and unobtrusive and allows the viewer to absorb the music and the situation without being distracted by context or agenda. At only one hour long it easily and exuberantly left the audience wanting more as we all carried the music with us out into the night.