‘Licorice Pizza’: a guide to Paul Thomas Anderson’s film soundtracks

From Jonny Greenwood scores to tune-packed OSTs, the 'Licorice Pizza' director is a master of matching music to movie

Ad feature with Universal Pictures 

Boogie Nights (1997)

In service to its late ‘70s setting, the Boogie Nights soundtrack has caught disco fever – and actually works as a pretty great primer for the disco-curious. It has ‘Machine Gun’ by The Commodores to make you feel you’re strutting into Studio 54, ‘Got To Give It Up’ by Marvin Gaye for sophisticated funk vibes and ‘Best Of My Love’ by The Emotions for dancefloor-friendly fun. Throw in some contemporaneous rock (Three Dog Night’s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’) and a Beach Boys tearjerker (‘God Only Knows’) and you’ll be ordering yourself a circular bed and velvet bedspread before you know it.

Magnolia (1999)

Advertisement

Aimee Mann during “Magnolia” Premiere, 1999 at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California (Picture: Barry King/WireImage)

The music of US singer-songwriter Aimee Mann was integral to the very existence of Paul Thomas Anderson’s legend-affirming third movie, and second in a row to hit a home run critically and commercially – he listened to it while writing the movie, so it was only right that Mann is prominent on the soundtrack. There’s still room on the CD for Gabrielle’s ‘Dreams’, too, and that’s not a bad thing.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Jonny Greenwood looks on as he & The LCO conducted by Hugh Brunt prepare to perform the live score of ‘There Will Be Blood’ as part of Roundhouse ‘Summer Sessions’ at The Roundhouse on August 6, 2014 in London (Picture: Edu Hawkins/Redferns via Getty Images)

“You can do things with the classical orchestra that unsettle you… that are sort of slightly wrong… that have some kind of undercurrent that’s slightly sinister,” Radiohead‘s Jonny Greenwood told Entertainment Weekly at the time of recording his first score for Anderson, turning in a sparse, frightening period piece bristling with gentle menace. Tracks like ‘Prospectors Arrive’ and ‘Oil’ swoon over cold strings, but it was the stabbing staccato of ‘Future Markets’ that best captured the film’s under-the-surface horror – sounding like an arthouse remix of the Jaws theme.

The Master (2012)

Greenwood’s second collaboration with Anderson took him back to the early ’50s for a spacious, lilting dreamscape that swims through Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Olivier Messiaen and Claude Debussy. Matching the film’s woozy sense of disorientation, Greenwood’s score is hypnotic without ever feeling overpowering – drawing you in slowly and changing tack as soon as it settles. Often eerie, occasionally frightening, sometimes sweet, it’s an album you can fall asleep to and still somehow carry on listening.

Inherent Vice (2014)

Advertisement

Jonny Greenwood (Picture: Edu Hawkins/Redferns)

Unreleased Radiohead track ‘Spooks’ found a place on Greenwood’s third score for Paul Thomas Anderson, re-emerging here as a dark surf pastiche with nods to The Velvet Underground that melted smoothly into the stoner haze of Anderson’s psychedelic neo-noir. Can, The Marketts, Kyu Sakamoto and Neil Young drift in and out along with spoken-word dialogue from the film, but this was Greenwood’s chance to cruise through the backstreets of ’70s Hollywood and pick ’n’ mix his favourite filmic influences.

Phantom Thread (2017)

Four films in, Greenwood and Anderson were never more perfectly paired than in Phantom Thread – a film, and a score, that luxuriates in classical beauty with an obsessively modern edge. Inspired by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s reinterpretations of Bach, Greenwood’s lavish (and Oscar-nominated) orchestral score is all old-school glamour until it occasionally isn’t – with neurotic cracks of jazz and dissonance hitting all the black keys on purpose. Where ‘House Of Woodcook’ comes straight out of a stately Hollywood romance, ‘Barbara Rose’ is the anxiety-ridden fever dream that breaks it up.

Licorice Pizza is in cinemas from January 1

Advertisement
Advertisement