Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson (2015)
The American master Paul Thomas Anderson documents the making of Junun; An album which Jonny Greenwood and Nigel Godrich helped play and record in an old fort/castle in Rajasthan with Israeli composer-singer Shye Ben Tzur. Anderson picks up his first digital film and first straight documentary with an austere but enjoyable look at a very quiet creative process. A creative process grown out of working, reworking and just playing. He spins his camera in the centre of an east meets west circle of minds, delivering this sort of hour-long jam session as softly and gracefully as possible; A meditation not on its stars but on the glowing atmosphere and the fantastic sounds.
Greenwood, Radiohead‘s genius composer/guitarist appears in Junun as he does on stage at the British band’s incredible performances; Hunched, focused, twiddling some knobs at his feet. Anderson stays away from the “star” of the show and the ever shy musician seems happy (no, thankful) that the music of Tzur can come crackling to the fore. Anderson too shows little of the showiness of his best work when he simply rests the camera on the floor, fails to edit out brash whip panning moves or laughs behind the lens. This is left in, bones and all, but it’s also part of the film’s charm.
There are some wonderful moments of storytelling and cross cutting; The journey into town for replacement batteries for a Casio keyboard against the refurbishment of a hundred year old percussive instrument is both poignant and funny. Anderson’s joy at having a camera drone at his disposal is apparent in a scene where he flies it into a huge flock of gathering birds waiting for their daily feed atop the beautiful castle. Bold and simple moves but never straying far from the studio…
Some might look at Junun as a slapdash returned favour by Anderson for Greenwood’s masterful composition on There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice; Maybe even a jolly of a holiday for the workmates. Maybe it was nothing but a coup de marketing from the streaming service MUBI who secured the sole distribution on the film but the truth of it is that there is a lot to take from this sweet, short and downplayed ode to a kind of music in need of much more attention.