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Adaptation of Inherent Vice for the Screen Relies on Film

  • December 12, 2014

The circa 1970 Greater Los Angeles of Inherent Vice is a land of contradicting moods: sprawling yet claustrophobic; sun-lit, yet disorienting. Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh film is an adaptation of Thomas Phynchon’s seventh novel.

The story follows California detective “Doc” Sportello, played by Joaquin Phoenix, as he investigates a series of comedy-tinged mysteries. Anderson directed the film in collaboration with a close-knit team who has worked together on many of his movies, including cinematographer Robert Elswit, ASC, an Oscar® winner for There Will Be Blood.

“There’s a sadness underneath Doc’s investigations,” says Anderson. “A feeling that the promise that people felt in those times was being ripped off. And that’s been a persistent theme of Pynchon’s work since the beginning. As I made the film, I was trying to be a surrogate for Pynchon’s concern for the American fate.”

Elswit shot Inherent Vice on KODAK 35mm Film in keeping with the 1970s aesthetic and the dream-like nature of Doc’s reality.

The film traversed more than 60 locations, from the Chowder Barge diner in San Pedro to a rambling Topanga estate belonging to a couple of artists, to a lot in Lancaster that stood in for the Wild West feel of the Channel View Estates construction site.

“Joaquin and I tried to dig into the book as deeply as we could; everything, all the time, came back to the book,” says Anderson. “It would make us laugh and constantly kept delivering new material. It’s so dense that there was no chance you could retain it all, but we tried.”