Thomas Pynchon himself narrated this promotional video (from Penguin Press) upon the release of his novel, Inherent Vice, in 2009. Now a movie (check out the Crosscut review) starring Joaquin Phoenix as Pynchon’s pot-smoking gumshoe (or “gumsandal” as Pynchon says), Larry “Doc” Sportello, the video is a must-see teaser for director Paul Thomas Anderson's film. In the video, Pynchon establishes Doc’s reasons for living in funky, fictional Gordita Beach, which will someday go “high rent and high intensity, but right now, back in 1970, what it is is just high.” An ounce of seeds and stems will cost you $10, and Doc’s neighbors are all surfers, dopers and stewardesses.
Doc used to work shakedowns for the cops, but moved out to the beach because he was weary of the “karmic hassle.” This helps to explain Doc’s relationship with Josh Brolin’s crazy, soul-troubled LAPD detective, Bigfoot, and why Doc is content to now work “the small tickets.” Where Inherent Vice, the movie, drops you directly into the crazy quilt of a case Doc works for the rest of the film, the book trailer sets things up with a visit from Doc’s “ex-old lady.”
In a different world, a more karmically pliable world, this trailer would play as a short before the main feature. Shot with a searching, hand-held camera, peering down sidewalks and through fence slats, drifting across alleys and the tourist-free beach, the video locates us in a physical space the movie mostly ignores. Pynchon’s narration (he must be about 71 years old) is wry, dry and dripping with the same “what, me worry” tone of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film. He has played himself before, in a couple of episodes of The Simpsons, but for nearly 40 years Pynchon has maintained his reclusive profile. Wait for the final line, when the writer expresses his astonishment at the high-price Penguin is charging for his hardback.
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