Friday, December 25, 2009

Film Decade List #7: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA, 2007)

As Michael Sicinski so succinctly put in his review of There Will Be Blood, this truly is the closest thing to a Kubrick film you could ask for without the man himself directing it. This should come as no surprise as Anderson has always worn his influences on his sleeve, whether it be Scorsese or Altman. Here he goes in almost the opposite direction, as the detached viewpoint associated with Kubrick becomes the viewpoint rather than the kinetic storytelling of his earlier films. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a oilman so corrupted with greed that it shatters everything else in his life, from his relationship with his adopted son to his ongoing conflict with a young preacher who may also be a grifter (Paul Dano). The fingerprints of Kubrick are all over this film from its sparse, almost dialogue free beginning (similar to 2001) to its macabre, theatrical ending (shades of A Clockwork Orange). This similarities formally aren't as much as a detriment as you would think, as following this new formal structure seems to reign in a lot of the excesses that populated Anderson's earlier films. As someone who had no issue with that, seeing him alter direction some is a bit of a surprise but just as effective. Day-Lewis is such a powerful and enigmatic force that he carries the entire film on his shoulders to great success. There Will Be Blood is essentially a character study and Day-Lewis gives what may be the performance of the decade as a man who will stop at nothing to possess what he wants. That the rest of the film stands up is a testament that Anderson may be one of the best of the new wave of auteurs that came of age this decade.
Blogger's aside: There Will Be Blood also spawned one of the greatest series of events of film criticism of the decade. Kyle Smith of the New York Post, who also happens to be the worst film critic in the world (at some point there may be a raging diatribe about this if I ever get to it), saying that the film has an essentially Conservative message about fathers and sons. Glenn Kenney of Premiere wrote one of the best rebuttals I've ever read basically saying how Smith has had his head so far up his own ass he has no idea what he's talking about. Read it here if you want to see a no-talent twerp get his ass handed to him.

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