Clocking in at a mere 54-minutes, Junun (which translates to “the madness of love”) is one of the year’s most hyped movies for cinephiles. Why? The project brings two frequent collaborators together once again: director Paul Thomas Anderson and musician Jonny Greenwood. Greenwood, most well-known as guitarist for “the biggest band in the world” Radiohead, has scored Anderson’s last three feature films including There Will Be Blood. Anderson, a six-time Academy Award nominee, has garnered a devoted following amongst cinema lovers and is often hailed as one of our greatest living directors. Make no mistake though, this movie isn’t about either one of them: it’s all about the music.
Greenwood travels to the Meharangarh Fort, a beautiful temple nestled in the hills of Jodhpur, India. One of the largest forts in the country, the location plays host to a gathering of musicians from all over the world. Led by Israeli recording artist Shye Ben Tzur, the group of over 20 performers came together this past February to record an album produced by frequent Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich (producer of their last six albums.) Anderson tags along for the trip to document every step of the journey.
Junun is less of a narrative and more a collection of moments. With laser-focused precision, Anderson highlights the passion and joy put into creating this music. At the start of the film, we’re submerged in the movie’s exuberant tunes as the director pans 360-degrees around the room while the musicians record. The camera continues to circle as the song builds: drums, trumpets, and strings escalating in unison. And that’s just the opening shot. Viewers spend the next 50-plus minutes indulging in this beautiful meeting of cultures, the east and west coming together to create something special.
There’s no star musician on display in Junun, each virtuoso is given equal treatment throughout the project. Fans expecting a Jonny Greenwood movie might be disappointed, he mostly lingers in the background instead of taking center stage. Anderson doesn’t reveal any of the musicians names until the end credits, allowing for the film to be entirely about the music itself. During one particular scene, we learn the women recording vocals for the tracks fascinatingly have no understanding of the language they are recording in (Hebrew). At another point, we accompany one of the musicians into the city on a trip to repair his harmonium. Throughout recording, the power keeps intermittently going off, making it impossible to lay down tracks. The tension builds when Greenwood and Godrich let the others know they have 10 minutes to record using back-up battery power. These brief little snapshots are the most we really get in terms of insights or stress, most of the movie is spent on the recording process itself.
What Junun lacks in deep insights into the recording process, it makes up for in its stunning visuals. Anderson employs drones to capture amazing overheard shots of India. At one point, a drone flies around nooks and corners of the fort and the musicians themselves as they record. Viewers are a fly on the wall watching Jonny Greenwood and company fumble with instruments as they find their footing with the song. The film is, above all, a home movie of the best kind, celebrating the exuberance and joy in making music. Junun is a love letter to the creative process, and a treat for your ears. Watch this with your speakers turned up, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
4 Drone Delivered Burritos Out of 5
What’s your favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie? (Trick question, ALL OF THEM.) Drop us your thoughts in the comments below!
Michelle Buchman is the social media manager at Nerdist Industries. She’s also a huge cinephile. Feel free to follow and chat movies with her on Twitter, @michelledeidre.