Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice will soon be making its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, and while we wait for the buzz to surface (or die, depending on the reaction), a new image has been released online. Based on the book by Thomas Pynchon, the story takes place in 1969 Los Angeles, and centers on a pothead/private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), who is helping a former lover with an intriguing case that involves infidelity, mental institutions, and policemen called “Bigfoot.” However, don’t go in expecting a direct adaptation of Pynchon’s novel. According to the New York Times, Anderson wrote an “outrageous new ending for the film that deviates significantly from the novel,” although Phoenix notes that Pynchon was an active participant in the process (the reclusive author may even have a cameo).
Hit the jump to check out the new Inherent Vice image and to learn more about the film. Inherent Vice opens December 12th, and also stars Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Katherine Waterson, and Joanna Newsom.
Anderson’s previous two films, There Will Be Blood and to a greater extent The Master, had a surreal quality to them. While it’s unknown if that tone will carry over to Inherent Vice (he wrote the script at the same time he wrote The Master), Anderson has been looking to some surprising sources for inspiration including the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films Airplane! and Top Secret! Additionally, Anderson has noted the narrative inconsistencies of film noir, and may have decided to play with them a bit:
“‘North by Northwest’?” he said. “Tell me again how he gets to the middle of the field with a plane after him? I can’t. How does he get to Mount Rushmore? I don’t know, but it’s great.”
When it came to adapting Inherent Vice, Anderson tells the NY Times he took a unique approach:
“The only thing better than reading Pynchon is rereading Pynchon,” Mr. Anderson said. “Like, how did I possibly miss that line the first time round?”
To get a grip on the project, he adapted the entire 384-page novel sentence by sentence. “I basically just transcribed it so I could look at it like it was a script,” he said. “It looked like a doorstop. But I can understand this format. As big as it was, it was easier for me to cut down.”
From there, Anderson explained the guiding principle was “an old quote from ‘Chandler or Hammett or one of those guys who said the point of a plot in a detective movie is to get your hero to the next girl to flirt with.’ After that, he said, his approach became, ‘When’s the next girl or funny bit going to happen?’”
And while there is comedy, it sounds like there will still be a melancholy question at the center:
“In the editing room, all the time, I was just trying to be a surrogate to his compassion and his concern for the American fate,” he said, using an earthy adjective for Mr. Pynchon’s attitude. “Has America really lived up to its potential? Let’s keep hoping.”