Harry Nilsson allegedly wrote the song “One” after unsuccessfully trying to reach the object of his affection. The beep beep beep rhythms at the beginning of the song are meant to mimic the busy signal he heard on the telephone. “One” went on to become a big hit for Three Dog Night, but never was the song more effective than when movie director Paul Thomas Anderson used an Aimee Mann cover version of it over the credit sequence and as the trailer to Magnolia. The 1999 film concerns a day in the life of some seemingly random characters living in the San Fernando Valley. The people, played by such great performers as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, John C. Reilly, William Macy, Julianne Moore, and Tom Cruise, weave in out of each other’s stories in a series of chance encounters. Mann annunciates every word in a clear and somewhat vulnerable voice. She never falters, but always seems a little on the edge. Anderson plays it over shots of the characters who frequently can be seen speaking, yet cannot be heard. This simultaneously expresses their inability to communicate and their profound isolation. They and we are all “One” so to speak, separate but still together in our loneliness.
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