THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Saturday, December 27, 5:45
Festival runs December 19 - January 11
In the fall of 2007, Paul Thomas Anderson talked to Directors Guild of America Quarterly about his latest film, There Will Be Blood, explaining how it was influenced by John Huston’s classic Western The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. “I was trying to find something that was one-hundred percent straightforward, old-fashioned storytelling. I definitely tried to mimic that approach. My natural instincts as a writer may be more scattered, so in an effort to be more traditional I used a book, just like they did. Sierra Madre is as direct as you can get — nothing clever, nothing structurally new or different — and I mean that as a high compliment. It’s harder than anything else to be completely straightforward.” There Will Be Blood has been called a lot of things since its release, but “traditional” and “completely straightforward” are probably not among them. But it does explain why Anderson’s film is one of only a handful of works not directed by Huston in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston.” In There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis, in remarkable voice (“I drink your milkshake!”), gives a spectacular, Oscar-winning performance as an independent oil man, absolutely embodying Daniel Plainview, a determined, desperate man digging for black gold in turn-of-the-century California. His first strike comes at a heavy price as he loses one of his men in a tragic accident, so he adopts the worker’s infant son, raising H.W. (Dillon Freasier) as his own. The growth of his company leads him to Little Boston, a small town that has oil just seeping out of its pores. But after not allowing Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), the charismatic preacher who runs the local Church of the Third Revelation, to say a prayer over the community’s first derrick, Plainview begins his descent into hell.
Using Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! as a starting point (and employing echoes of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons in addition to the obvious reference, George Stevens’s classic 1956 oil flick, Giant), writer-director Anderson (Boogie Nights, The Master) has created a thrilling epic about greed, power, and corruption as well as jealousy, murder, and, above all, family, where oil gushes out of the ground with fire and brimstone. Robert Elswit’s beautiful, Oscar-winning cinematography is so gritty and realistic, audiences will be reaching for their faces to wipe the oil and blood off. The piercing, classically based score, composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, builds to a mind-blowing crescendo by the end of the film — a finale that is likely to be much talked about and widely criticized. Filmed in the same location — Marfa, Texas — where Giant was set, There Will Be Blood is an unforgettable journey into the dark heart of one man’s soul. The film is screening December 27 at 5:45 at the Walter Reade Theater; “Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston,” which continues through January 11, consists of forty films directed by the master, from The African Queen and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison to The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and The List of Adrian Messenger, from The Red Badge of Courage and Victory to A Walk with Love and Death and The Kremlin Letter, in addition to a few movies Huston either appeared in (Chinatown, Tentacles!) or that demonstrate his lasting influence, as is the case with There Will Be Blood. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre will be shown December 23, 25, and 27.