Edited by Don Malcolm on 1/25/2018, 12:33 pm
I think the single face-off of two characters that ultimately takes over in most of his films winds up limiting them, and so he's never quite found a way to make a truly great film as a result. The closest is probably MAGNOLIA because he actually develops some separate interlocking conflicts and takes the story into darker areas.
His interest in period drama might lead him to a project that I've always thought had potential for greatness: an adaptation of Faulkner's early novel MOSQUITOES (1926), which most consider a failure because he's trying to do too many things at once (including combining surrealist imagery with the language patterns of James Joyce's ULYSSES), but the sexual/intellectual collision of the characters in a highly rarefied, "we really want to be decadent but don't quite know how" circle of New Orleans aesthetes has a lot of potential for a director who thrives on battles of will--the film, handled right, could be a roundelay of shifting battles. If anyone could crack it, it would be Anderson--though if he missed the mark, it might end his career...