Saturday, January 19, 2008
There Will Be Blood
Okay. I have five seconds to collect my thoughts on this forum about P.T. Anderson's film, "There Will Be Blood".
Even though I've had a few days to digest the film, I'm still having trouble forming coherent sentences around what I've seen. The film is a sprawling epic of the early days of oil culture in our country. The film begins silently but still tells a story that offers a window into the life and gritty nature of both the country and Daniel Plainview. It felt very much like a silent John Ford picture without any of the chases.
In fact, the closest I feel like I can relate the tone, look and feel of the film is a John Ford epic of some kind. It explores a lot of themes John Ford did with John Wayne, with the anti-social outcast and his relationship to a kid. (Albeit in a different way, but it felt inspired by that.) And I have to say, all of the scenes with H.W. are dynamite. In fact, I would argue that the best, most moving scene in the film, is the one where H.W. comes back after being sent away and in a long shot, Daniel embraces him and says something like, "Yes. This is what I need." And he tells the boy he loves him and the like. After the crazed build-up from before, after he sent him away, it was just the right scene at the right time and that's the beauty of P.T. Anderson's handcrafted filmmaking.
But, then the film descends into Billy Wilder-like insanity. The last few scenes of the film truly reminded me of Sunset Boulevard.
Which is what was so great about the ending. I'm offering a spoiler warning, get out now if you haven't seen the film. But the thing I like most about the end of the film is that if I were to tell someone who hasn't seen it that it ends in a bowling alley where Daniel Plainview bashes a preachers brains out with a wooden bowling pin, they wouldn't believe me. Watching the trailers and seeing all the material available on the film, you would never conceive and ending like that being possible.
But as you watch the film, not only is it possible, it's as cold and logical as any ending can ever be.
Everyone has been saying that P.T. Anderson has "matured as a filmmaker" and broken away from his style, but I would argue that assembling a film this masterfully is his style. It's rare that directors nowadays respect and learn both their craft and the history of cinema as it relates to their projects and it's refreshing to see filmmakers try new things in that context. Because everything else we see in theatres is based more on pop-culture than the history of film. And no one knows their craft anymore. It's frustrating to me to see bad screenplays get produced.
And it's refreshing to me to see masterpieces like this get made.
I doubt this film will make a lot of money, but it will forever be in the lexicon of American Cinematic Masterpieces. I don't think it's as good as Citizen Kane, but I do think it deserves to be listed among it as a major achievement in American Cinema.
And this probably would have bumped one of the films off of my top 5 of 2007 list....