The release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Licorice Pizza, has left many moviegoers scratching their heads. It’s an odd title for a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s about a teenage boy and his older female friend navigating love, friendship, and ambition in the San Fernando Valley.
So why did Anderson decide to call it Licorice Pizza? As it turns out, there are several theories behind the origin of the title – ranging from nostalgic nods to cultural significance.
One theory is that “Licorice” refers to Robert Altman’s first film, The Delinquents (1957). In this film, Lawrence Tierney plays “Chips,” a character who tries to woo a young girl by giving her licorice. Anderson is known for paying homage to other filmmakers in his work— including directing Magnolia after watching Short Cuts repeatedly — so it wouldn’t be surprising if this is what inspired his choice of title.
Another possible explanation centers around vinyl records. Back in the days when people actually bought physical copies of music albums instead of streaming them on their phones, vinyl records came in large circular boxes called pizza boxes. These boxes were designed to protect the fragile LPs during shipping and handling while also making them easier to transport. Some DJs refer these record sleeves as pizza box — but there was another reason for this name too: they resembled giant pizzas! Since Jack dreams of being an entertainment entrepreneur one day — he even runs errands for real-life agent Michael Zimberg played by Scott Rudin —it could be argued that he envisions himself selling records like slices from pizza pies or LPs housed inside loudspeaker-shaped promotional moving boxes resembling Pizzas’ brand cardboard containers.
But perhaps the most plausible theory yet comes down something quite literal: The old Japanese fast food chain Samurai Sushi used ‘Licorice Pizzas’ as their distinctive logo featuring clown-style pies on the storefront. In Japanese cuisine, licorice denotes “umami” savory flavor — so perhaps this allusion to umami-licorice creates a compelling subtext connecting two very different cultural traditions and food-related references.
Looking at these theories as individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, it’s possible that Anderson chose the title Licorice Pizza because it encompasses each of those concepts: nostalgia, vinyl records, and cultural significance. But above all else, Licorice Pizza is a film about adolescence and growing up in an era where everything was just within grasp—even though only some things could be bought within reach—if one knew how to hustle.
Regardless of what brought about the choice for its quirky moniker, Licorice Pizza has already sparked conversations amongst cinephiles far beyond its opening day audiences—scored from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and starring Cooper Hoffman (son of Philip Seymour Hoffman) who impressively makes his first feature act opposite Alana Haim from The Wolfpack in full-fledged Hollywood debut role following her Grammy-nominated stint with sister Danielle & Este in sibling band called HAIM.
Licorice Pizza may not spout joyfulness or easygoingness throughout but heralds another meticulous universe by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson as fascinatingly sublime exploration into unpredictable characters’ world whose hopes intersect around San Fernando Valley at pivotal moments—all while drawing us deeper into their universal desires by merely spending more time watching them grow like seeds planted wildflowers popping lovely unexpected shapes wherever they bloom next!
There is always a degree of anticipation and excitement when an acclaimed filmmaker, such as Paul Thomas Anderson, announces the release of their latest project. However, even before Licorice Pizza hit theaters, there was buzz surrounding the unusual title chosen for the film. Many moviegoers were left puzzled by the name of Anderson’s newest creation.
Licorice Pizza is a coming-of-age story that depicts a teenage boy named Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and his friendship with an older woman named Alana Kane (Alana Haim). The two navigate love, ambition, and friendship in 1970s San Fernando Valley. But what exactly does licorice have to do with this setting or storyline?
Over time, several theories have emerged attempting to explain why Anderson chose Licorice Pizza as his title. One potential explanation ties back into historic cinema: Lawrence Tierney’s character Chips in Robert Altman’s first film from 1957 titled The Delinquents offers up licorice to attempt to woo his crush. As an ardent student of American filmmakers like Altman himself—with whom he collaborated on Short Cuts almost thirty years later—Anderson could very well be referencing this moment.
Another theory suggests that the term “licorice pizza” refers to vinyl records’ large circular boxes known by DJs specifically as “pizza boxes.” These containers protected records during transport and featured designs resembling giant pizzas—a moveable feast ready for play at any given moment! Given that Jack hopes to become an entertainment entrepreneur one day—who even runs errands for real-life agent Michael Zimberg played by Scott Rudin — it stands plausible enough that he visualizes himself pedaling music like slices from pies.
Perhaps more compellingly than both previous explanations put together though has been research pointing toward Samurai Sushi chain’s old brand logo art which popped out through clown-style pie shapes depicted prominently on storefronts all over Japan under moniker “Licorice Pizza.” This interpretation brings cultural significance back into play as licorice denotes umami or savory flavor in Japanese cuisine. By blending what seem like unrelated references, Anderson’s choice of title appears to create a subtext that connects two disparate arts and cultural corners across time and space.
In true Paul Thomas Anderson fashion, it is entirely conceivable that none of these intriguing theories come close to explaining why Licorice Pizza was chosen as the film’s title. That being said, combining pieces from each theory offers valuable insights into the film’s themes.
Overall, Licorice Pizza invites audiences to experience adolescence in a unique setting where everything feels within reach but simultaneously out-of-grasp for Gary and Alana. As we watch their hopes intersect at decisive moments in San Fernando Valley while grappling with universal desires such as love and career aspiration just on the horizon—likened sometimes by chaotic wildflower clusters sprouting wherever they find themselves taking root—their world becomes richer than ever before. With stunning performances by Cooper Hoffman already getting rave reviews for his accomplished first feature acting gig opposite talented self-made musical artist turned actor Haim after her own Grammy-nominated turn with indie rock darlings HAIM – it goes without saying: this cinematic offering works on so many levels- bearing yet another fascinatingly sublime universe for us all to explore through Anderson’s expert lens once again!