At Hollywood Elsewhere, the buzz for Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film is building… with some substance this time.
My favorite American director. My favorite actor. I’m getting impatient.
WHOAH! Here’s a review by Marjorie Baumgarten at Variety. And lo and behold… Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood did the soundtrack!!
Certain to be rewarded with year-end accolades, Anderson’s film is a true American saga – one that rivals “Giant” and “Citizen Kane” in our popular lore as origin stories about how we came to be the people we are. In “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” it’s not the gold that destroys men’s souls but greed; in “There Will Be Blood,” the commodity that drives the greed is oil.
Anderson was in attendance and answered a few questions following the screening. The film, which is based on Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, really only uses “about the first 150 pages of the novel,” according to Anderson. “The book goes on to Hollywood and Washington” and was just too expansive for his purposes, though he said that those opening chapters contained Sinclair’s clear descriptions of the workings of the derricks and the precipitous moods that hung over communities that were about to sell their land to the oil prospectors. These are images that are also conveyed vividly in the film. Additionally, Anderson’s usual mix of stunning landscape shots and long takes blend with his close-up scrutiny of the hidden meanings of faces and comportment.
Daniel Day-Lewis is at his brilliant best as the story’s Daniel Plainview, a man whose humanity diminishes as his fortunes increase. Never an exemplar of human kindness, Plainview becomes truly monstrous by film’s end. Spanning three decades from 1898 to 1927, the approximately two hour and 40-minute film begins and ends with Plainview as a solitary figure. In fact, the first 15 minutes pass without any dialogue. Community is merely a useful tool for getting what Plainview wants and needs. Another constant nuisance is religion and false piety, represented by the character, Eli Sunday, played by Paul Dano. That the film stars none of the director’s recurring repertory of actors is another intriguing element that lends a fresh sense to the undertaking.
Essential to the success of the movie is the original score by Jonny Greenwood, the Radiohead guitarist and BBC composer in residence. In addition to some uniquely haunting orchestral arrangements, there’s this insistent string motif that sounds like the buzzing of an insect inside one’s head, a sound that grows louder and more unavoidably distressing whenever soulless events are about to occur. Greenwood’s astonishing score is sure to be one of the most remarked-on aspects of the movie.
It’s more than a “departure” for the director; it’s a monumental display of “evolution” that’ll wow the established fans and impress a helluva lot more new ones. This is a dark, compelling and effortlessly engrossing film, one bolstered by a lead performance that ranks among the very best of Lewis’ impressive career.
The film will most often be compared to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, so I guess I can get the ball rolling on that particular crutch — but it’s also an apt comparison. Which is not to say that There Will Be Blood will necessarily be dissected and revered 75 years from now, but the stories are certainly similar enough.
Paul Thomas Anderson has demonstrated tremendous instincts as a filmmaker in his previous four features, but, for me, he‚Äôs always been more of a promising director with great potential than a master. There Will Be Blood shows that he has absorbed the lessons of those directors that have inspired him ‚Äî notably Robert Altman ‚Äî and found something new to say, and a new way to say it. He‚Äôs built on everything he‚Äôs done before and surpassed his previous achievements. It‚Äôs definitely not perfect, but it is sweeping and majestic as it moves down a lonely, powerful path.
The Hollywood Reporter raves:
Both an epic and a miniature, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” uses the fewest possible brush strokes, spread across a vast canvas, to paint a portrait of greed at the beginning of the American century. Built around another powerhouse performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, it’s a certain awards contender and will be a strong draw for serious moviegoers.