He’s made just six films over his career yet the works of Paul Thomas Anderson continue to be analyzed in numerous different ways by many people. Kevin B. Lee from Sight & Sound, in particular, has showcased remarkable perception when it comes to analyzing PTA’s visual style. He’s compiled videos of every symmetrical two-shot, every whip pan, and most notably, every tracking shot and this video essay is definitely a must-see for any fan of the filmmaker.
In the video, Kevin B. Lee examines the evolution of Anderson’s style with Steadicam. With “Hard Eight,” he only has one notable tracking shot: when Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) is walking through the casino before he eventually stops at the craps table. In “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” however, PTA’s love for tracking shots really come alive. Lee specifically talks about the opening tracking shot in 'Boogie' as well as the long tracking shot in the studio where the “What Do Kids Know?” game show is staged in “Magnolia.” He notes how the shot in 'Boogie' is done with specific purpose, introducing each of the main characters in the film. The shot in “Magnolia” appears to have less of a purpose, merely movement for the sake of movement.