a luminous throwback to the city of all possibilities


What has never been said, shown or told about teenage love, so that a new film on the subject doesn’t immediately appear completely wrung out? If the ninth feature film by American Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, 2007; Phantom Thread, 2017) nevertheless renews the genre beyond all expectation, it is not so much by the originality of what it tells: a boy and a girl like each other, turn around and end up kissing – the usual routine . It is rather for having seen through adolescence, which always reiterates the same motives (passage and initiation), a stronger stake: the incarnation of a youth capable of transcending eras and regenerating cinema in itself. same. And, in fact, rarely has recent American cinema, haunted by the specter of its own decline, shown such a capacity for euphoria as in this lively and twirling film.

This exaltation, it’s in the Los Angeles of the early 1970s that Licorice Pizza go get it and from which he derives, in passing, his fetish title of “licorice pizza”, after the sign of an old chain of record stores in Southern California. More precisely, the story is set in the San Fernando Valley, a sort of village within the city, where the author, born in 1970, grew up, and which he recalls in a retrospective gesture, not without evoking that of Quentin Tarantino with the recent Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019).

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Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a high school student and child actor with a handful of appearances in blockbuster movies, uses all his nerve to invite the school photographer’s assistant, Alana Kane (Alana Haim), to dinner at the strong character. He’s 15, she’s 25, but they both share the same adolescent territory: he’s trying to get ahead of her with an unfailing entrepreneurial spirit; she, who still lives with her parents (traditional Jews), splashing there more than reason, as in a bath that is already too long. Without really knowing why, Alana starts hanging out with this endearing kid, who manages his acting career at the same time as other businesses, and starts selling waterbeds with him. And if she refuses to go out with him, something still works its way between them, according to their encounters and adventures, in a city teeming with possibilities.

Constant fascination

The stroke of genius Licorice Pizza begins as soon as it is cast. Anderson entrusts the two main roles to beginners, unknown to the general public: Cooper Hoffman, son of comedian Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014), and Alana Haim, singer and musician of the neo-folk group Haim, formed with his sisters, whose the filmmaker directed most of the clips. Through them, he bets on atypical faces, resolutely unformatted, whose irregularity contains in itself all the fragility and the first taste of adolescence, an ungrateful and glorious age at the same time. Successful bet. Both are a source of constant fascination for the camera. Anderson captures the tiniest variations on faces and, in them, the birth and blossoming of emotions. Thus, the filmmaker (credited with Michael Bauman as chief operator) works as a painter, using all his palette to better cover the expressive spectrum of his two models.

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