Under the surface, Inherent Vice is about the search for lost glory. To me, Doc's hunt for Shasta is allegorical for the hunt of the innocence of a dying spirit falling victim to the corruption of new evil entities that seem to be here to stay now and forever. (The tragedy of their relationship is truly exemplified in the scene where Shasta appears for the 2nd time)
Allegories aside, I also think it's an excellent satire on the "neo-noir" genre itself. Where noir films are inherently confusing in nature, IV perpetuates and exaggerates that tradition by telling an already messy story from the POV of an unreliable protagonist who's high 24/7 and has a questionable perspective (Ex. His interactions with Sortilege the narrator. It's never made clear whether or not she's real), alongside the fact that the film's treatment of paranoia contributes to the "what ifs" and the "Shhhh, don't let them hear you" nature of the film, never truly answering questions and letting the threats ride the waves of dangerous conspiracy, which also contributes to the questionable perspective of Doc's already fragile mind as he cannot properly decipher what is and isn't. Seeing the entire film unfold from Doc's POV made feel intoxicated and unclear of everything (just as much as him), and I admired the absurdly subtle experience of being put in the shoes of the main character himself. Very interesting experience
Lastly, for what Paul was trying to do, I find the subdued approach to the film in-sync with the caricature of Doc Sportello. Doc is a sluggish, stumbling, intoxicated character who sorta kinda sleepwalks through all of three of the cases while they all unfold around him. Everything passes in such a way where you aren't even sure what's happening, which is another testament to Doc. The whole film feels like one big high, washing over you for 2 and a half hours. I thought it matched very well, along with the stagnant note of the film's blend of drama and comedy, which I also feel lends itself to the amusement of Doc's silly nature, and the overall melancholy of the situation he's been thrown into. One doesn't outweigh the other and manages to hold a delicate balance throughout the journey
I admire how understated and subtle the film is. PTA manages to quietly create a poignant atmosphere through the interwoven storylines which gets carried and pushed along through the nuances and "tiny things" that add to one whole. It's not an easy thing to do, nor is it a task one would even dare to do anyway. It's a film that meant to be experienced on the first go, then understood on repeated viewings, and you learn so much through repeated viewings. The film is jam-packed with so many nuances, I LOVE IT! 10/10 for me (Great music, visuals and performances too)
Howard Hughes was Italian?