Monday, December 15, 2008

the lord is my business

[february 02, 2008]

The first 20 minutes or so of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (after just the film's title as far as opening credits go) play out like a silent movie lovingly filmed to exploit the rich possibilities of widescreen until the silence is shattered with a Good Evening from Daniel Plainview right before the scene introducing us to him and his audience. Anderson eschews intensified continuity (a term due to David Bordwell), a technique rampant in Hollywood today featuring enthusiastically edited frames devoid of much information (Bollywood has probably taken this several miles further by presenting caravans of meaningless frames). Instead he sticks with patient long takes and a relaxed approach to a narrative embellished by a powerful score from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The score, which employs real instruments, is effectively eerie, reminiscent of the haunting motifs of Bernard Herrmann and the work of György Ligeti. All this only emphasises a towering consuming performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the towering satanic Daniel Plainview embodying the American spirit while giving us a character unpleasant, unlikeable and compelling. I enjoyed watching the uneasy (unholy?) alliance between commerce (Plainview) and religion (the charismatic preacher Eli Sunday) as much as I did the measured steady pace of the film. The final act, however, has me in a pinch. I was impressed with its audacity, but I also felt cheated as the end credits rolled out like those in a silent movie. I just hope there was something I missed, something that a second viewing at some point will help me understand. There's no denying, however, the power of the film with all its warts and confounding elements.

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