Watched Magnolia again last night after many years. It’s just a monster of a movie, this scene included.
There’s so many tiny, tiny decisions in here that make this work, decisions no other film-maker would have made. The camera doesn’t take the pharmacist’s POV. Instead, it sits right behind his ear, so Julianne Moore’s character isn’t confronting the viewer. We get to see her as the pharmacist does, but it’s not us she’s looking at.
When pharmacist #2 rings the bell, instead of cutting, the camera swings around as if it’s caught by surprise. It’s as if there’s a narrator throughout the entire movie; he speaks at the beginning and the end. The rest of the time, the narrator is just watching, or at least that’s how it seems to me. The camerawork is only one aspect of that.
Meanwhile, the background in this scene is its own masterpiece, all blur and movement, cars and people with umbrellas … a crazy thing to do in a focused interior scene. Anderson mixes the score with the sound of the pouring rain, and the space gets tinier and tinier.
And then of course, it’s Julianne fucking Moore, in the most amazing performance, just for starters.
Magnolia, Julianne Moore, pharmacy scene. (youtuble)