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Boogie Nights (1997)
Downfall of the sex cinema civilization
After having it watched for the fifth or sixth time since I had first seen it when in came out cinema back in 1997, it struck me that this film only gets better with age.
The second half of the 1990s saw few, more or less successful, cinematic re-examinations of the late 1970s. Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" is a worthy example.
"Boogie Nights" is a historical account of certain eminent trends, social structures and patterns that existed at the time. Set between 1977 and 1983, the film portrays the pornographic film industry in California at its peak, and its imminent downfall, invoked by the introduction of the video tape - something that reduced the creative ambition of the porn filmmakers to a simple push-button recording and introduced competition from anonymous amateurs to the business.
It appears that the people involved in the industry (actors, producers, directors, technicians) all lived in a sort of a ghetto (flashy and glossy nonetheless); had they ever dared to part from it, they would have had inevitably gotten burned - either by the stigma that had been cast on them, or in the face of the fact that their abilities in the real world were never held at a high price, which is what lured them into the industry in the first place. It is obvious, then, that inside this little world, these people have found a haven where they could appear important, a universe which was built upon and sustained through all sorts of hedonistic temptations and dubious financial sources. It was a cocaine-fed lie, and they knew it.
"Boogie Nights" describes the paradigm shift of the sex cinema industry in a similar manner in which "Gone with the Wind" approached the abolition of slavery as an eclipse of the civilization of the South.
One of the film's features is that it loosely depicts real-life characters and situations, like the film's Dirk Diggler (Wahlberg's character) posing for John Holmes in real life. This is what makes characters of the film all the more believable; they are ignorant, shallow, terrified and self-indulgent. The soundtrack of the film is impressively appropriate.
Certain scenes definitely make cinema history, like the one in Alfred Molina's character's apartment, where an unexplained Chinese character, probably in an opium-induced frenzy, explodes fire-crackers every half a minute or so. The story-telling in scenes such as this one hits the mark in expressing the state of the characters' minds. The film is simply brilliant.