Paul Thomas Anderson to Adapt Pynchon’s ‘Inherent Vice’

With PTA’s “The Master” off the table for now (because of Scientologists?) the auteur is currently writing the screenplay adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelic noir “Inherent Vice.”

Paul Thomas Anderson to Adapt Pynchon's 'Inherent Vice'

Full disclosure: I actually heard about this marriage of filmmaker and writer directly from the horses’s mouth (someone at CAA) in early 2010, but kept my mouth shut out of my respect for Pynchon and the person who told me that Anderson was involved.  Apart from a small group of my friends, it was probably only known in small circles at CAA.  And when I say the horse’s mouth, I mean one person removed from Pynchon himself, which made me dizzy with glee at the revelation.

Well, now it’s out in the aether and all the beautiful strangeness of this project can finally be discussed.

“Inherent Vice” is psychedelic or ‘sunshine noir,’ a very rare sub-genre of noir fiction.  Many superficial comparisons have been made to the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece “The Big Lebowski,” but that’s only because it’s the most well-known example of the genre, and perhaps the only one known to most people.

If you really want to go back to the origins of psychedelic or sunshine noir, check out Terry Southern’s maniacal novel “Flash & Filigree” or Thomas Pynchon’s short novel “The Crying of Lot 49.”  Both precede “The Big Lebowski” by at least 40 years.  And the fact of the matter is that “Inherent Vice” shares only the concept of a stoned main character in the anti-wonderland of Los Angeles. The two stories are, in fact, quite different.

The word from Hollywood is that Anderson is eying Robert Downey Jr. for the role of ‘gumsandal’ Doc Sportello, a private eye based in Gordita Beach (a fictional amalgamation of Manhattan Beach–where Pynchon once lived–and Venice Beach, from what I could gather).  Doc’s ex-girlfriend Shasta shows up on his doorstep and asks for his help in foiling a plot that will have her current boyfriend Mickey Wolfmann admitted to a mental institution.

Thus begins a very strange and stemwinding trip starting with Doc’s visit to one of Wolfmann’s real-estate developments that doubles as a whorehouse, where’s he’s knocked out by his arch-nemesis LA detective Bigfoot Bjornson (a man who loves chocolate-covered bananas).  Doc is soon searching for a missing surf rock musician, Coy Harlingen–an informant and agent-provocateur for the FBI–who tells Doc about a mysterious gang of smugglers called ‘The Golden Fang.’

He next discovers a possible connection in the Chryskylodon Institute, which seems rather like a symbol for all Californian New Age spirituality as well as a veiled reference to Scientology–which should give Anderson the fix he’s temporarily lost with ‘The Master.’

It’s great visualizing Doc stumbling through his own psychedelic wasteland in “Inherent Vice,” and should be a pleasure watching Anderson direct Pynchon’s vision.  Anderson gets Los Angeles like no other filmmaker.

And if Downey can dial himself down a bit and enter into a slow-motion version of himself, this could be a great new entry in cinematic psychedelic noir.

If you want to read my review of “Inherent Vice” from August 2009, click here.