Feb 10, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Essential. Meaning, absolutely necessary, indispensable. So, if you love film and the very essence of the cinematic experience, There Will Be Blood is absolutely essential viewing. This celluloid masterpiece quite definitely and firmly places director Paul Thomas Anderson as the singularly most important auteur of his generation. The man has already directed two compelling and flawless films in "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia". His latest effort exists to confirm his already heady reputation. A complex, evocative and original piece of work, it features stunning direction, exquisite performances and imperative themes that will leave you stunned, enlightened and thoroughly entertained. A modern American masterpiece, a film that is a beacon of illuminated art and iridescent layers. A shining light that dazzles and sparkles like few others.

This stunning film is a first for Anderson on many levels. His first adapted screenplay, based on the Upton Sinclair novel "Oil!". His first film away from his oft used San Fernando Valley. His first period piece film. Thankfully, he succeeds beyond even my highest expectations. From the opening scene to the dark and disturbing ending I was transfixed and absorbed in this story of ambition, power and the shortcomings of human behaviour. The story begins in New Mexico at the end of the 19th century. A silver prospector Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) unexpectedly discovers oil. As the opening scene unfolds we are spared any dialogue, we are alone with Plainview in the mineshaft, alone with his efforts and exertions. It makes for a distinctly unique beginning to the film, one that draws you deep into the central character, one that takes a firm grip on your heart and soul and then refuses to let go. As Plainview discovers more oil, his wealth grows. The death of one of his men leads him to "adopting" a son in H.W. Plainview (Dillon Freasier). The story jumps forward a few years and the father and son are off to California to stake an oil claim in a small town named Little Boston. Plainview negotiates the oil rights with the Sunday family, whose ranch covers the prospective oil field. Their son is Eli (Paul Dano), a young and charismatic preacher who is more interested in building a church for his congregation then the ambition of Plainview. The story twists and turns several times after this and eventually finishes in the year 1927. I could give you a longer plot synopsis, but the sheer pleasure of a film like this is discovering the film's multiple qualities for yourself. The many subtleties and nuances are a delight for any cinema fan, its many complexities will have you ruminating for days. It is a considered and critical study of men with strong will and high ambition. Plainview is a potent character, his many strengths and weaknesses amply displayed by the great Lewis. He embodies the character, his presence is electric on screen. His winning the Academy Award for Best Acting virtually assured. He portrays Plainview with such overpowering physicality that you are barely able to take your eyes off him. A complex man, the central character was at once tender and trusting and also callous and starkly unforgiving. A metaphor for the expansion of American money and power, he becomes more destructive and vindictive as the film unfolds. Daniel Day Lewis is surrounded by a great cast, especially the impressive Dano who manages to hold his own in many crucial scenes. This film is overflowing with great scenes, some powerful and urgent, some tender and delicate. You will be overcome with the scenes that involve young H.W. after a regrettable episode. And the scenes in the church of Sunday become more darkly maniacal and comical as the film progresses.

This is unequivocally a film to savour and discuss, one to see for a second time. Anderson has a unique eye for the great scene, his unusual and distinct framing is one to definitely appreciate. Shots linger and dissolve before your eyes, the pace could be unusually languid before bursting into full and vivid life. Beautifully shot by longtime contributor Robert Elswit, this film is one for the eyes as well as the mind. A new contributor to Anderson's films is Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. His score was unusual and at times eerie, but perfectly suited to the texture and tone of the film. For this is a film that is far from the madding crowd. It is a thought provoking, emotionally resonant take on the foibles and ambitions of man. The strengths and weaknesses of men with ambition and overwhelming greed. It is a film that slowly but surely takes you to another world. Not just of time and place, but of thoughts and emotions. See this film, breathe it in. Then see it again, without hesitation.


  • At February 11, 2008 , Anonymous Karen said...

    The interplay between Daniel Plainview and the church was probably my favourite part of the film. And if Daniel Day Lewis doesn't win best actor for this role then there's something very wrong with the world. He was truly outstanding.

  • At February 20, 2008 , Blogger James, Certified Music Critic said...

    great great movie... almost as good as no country for old men..,

  • At February 21, 2008 , Anonymous Ad said...

    Heartily agree. If I was stranded on a desert island (with a DVD player of course) and could only take one filmmaker's body of work, I'd take PTA's in a heartbeat. What a range, each skillfully and artfully rendered.

    I would love for this film to sweep the Oscars, but my gut tells me No Country will spoil the party.


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