Design / Cinematography
The design plays with the contrasts in the script — the terse opposition between the cool blues of television and the warmth of a home's wood or a woman's flesh tones. Bridges and Arnold also wanted to evoke the colors in the magnolia flower: greens, browns and delicate off-whites. Throughout it all, a sense of period — the period right now — had to prevail.
Production designers Mark Bridges and William Arnold and cinematographer Robert Elswit worked closely with Paul Thomas Anderson to achieve the film's look — bringing personal intensity into a cusp-of-the-millennium milieu. "We looked at films with really, really close, tight palettes, films that were warm and beautiful and tried to analyze what made them so and visually tried to do that with Magnolia," explains Bridges. "It was
about real control with colors and shadows, letting the textures get richer and richer as the characters deepen throughout the film.'
Summarizes Bridges: "This is a movie that is very much about a time — 1999 — and a place -- the San Fernando Valley. Even though the film is contemporary we approached it as a period piece because we really wanted to peg the way things are currently — the individuality and the estrangement, the media influence and the use of clothes as hiding places"
Bridges also designed Magnolia's costumes, individualizing each to the character but with one common thread: "Everybody wears the external like camouflage in this film, presenting something to the world that is different from what is inside." Thus it is for example, that Julianne Moore's Linda is outfitted in a three-quarter length cashmere, fur-collared coat though inside she is impoverished; Jason Robards' Earl Partridge wears a hospital gown, but then throws an old sweater over it because it reminds him a past fraught with mistakes; and Frank Mackey has the slim, body-conscious, form-fitting clothes of a superhero, although he is falling apart.
In addition to the designs for 1999, Bridges and Arnold also designed the three segments for Magnolia's prologue, jumping between a 1911 prison yard, a 1958 tenement and the early 1980s.
Again, authenticity was the name of the game. For the turn-of-the-century hanging segment, Anderson even shot through a hand-cranked Pathe camera standard to its day. "There's nothing like the real deal," says Anderson. "It's fun to see what it was
like in 1911 hand-cranking the camera, finding out the limitations, the difficulties. You feel like you are there for a minute or two. And that's what I believe: you just can't fake it."
The nine interdependent plot lines of Magnolia are set to a soundtrack of songs by Aimee Mann, whose music becomes part of the warp and weave of the film. Paul Thomas Anderson had met Mann through her husband, Michael Penn, who did the score for Boogie Nights and Hard Eight., then, while writing Magnolia was particularly inspired by her song "Wise Up." Hoping to entice Mann to write more songs for the film, he sent her the script. "I usually have a hard time reading scripts, but this was different" she says. "It was so ambitious, with so many stories, but I had total faith in Paul that he could do it."
Even as Paul Thomas Anderson was comleting the Magnolia script, Mann was writing the film's end-title song, "Save Me," her music becoming part and parcel of the film's creative process.
Mann's songs fit into the intimate style of Magnolia. "I look for lyrics that celebrate<
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