Paul Thomas Anderson’s first documentary, Junun, plunges the viewer into an immersive bath of rapturous sound that is both entrancing and soul-stirring. With scant instances of narrative signposts or dialogue to explain the circumstances being filmed, Anderson lets music drive the story leaving no choice but to experience the sonorous, epic elegance of this special film.
Junun follows the recording sessions of a music collaboration between Western musicians - Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, producer Nigel Goodrich and composer Shye Ben Tzur - and their Eastern counterparts - a brass band collective known as the Rajashan Express. This cultural exchange is at once improvised and rehearsed, structured and meandering, energetic and languorous, creating and composing in tandem, and in tension, a glorious expression of music which envelops the room with energy and inspiration. Filmed behind the walls of an ancient fortress in Rajasthan, India, the lifeblood of music courses through its people and culture with force and purpose .
Anderson doesn’t try to hide his or his crew’s presence as Western observers, or the pretense of filmmaking in Junun. The visual style is unaffected, with long takes moving in and out of focus, run-and-gun camera action, production gear strewn around the room, and the occasional sound blooper at the fault of an ardent band wanna-be in the form of a relentlessly cooing pigeon. The film maintains a wabi-sabi balance that allows the viewer to embody this wonderfully infectious music, while experiencing the essence of what cannot be spoken, but only heard and felt. Go see it, or at the very least buy the album when it comes out next month!