Will There Be Blood?

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Aye, There Will Be Blood.

I saw this a week-and-a-half ago and I’m still thinking about it every day. Paul Thomas Anderson’s enigmatic and enigmatically-named film – his first since the sweet-but-slight Punch-Drunk Love half a decade ago – is a maddening, beguiling but hugely satisfying meal of a movie, bold and unknowable. Is it a picture whose self-possessed greatness will echo down the ages? Your guess is as good as mine. Anderson’s films — Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia round out his resume; he’d made all three before he was 30, the prodigious bastard — tend to give up their secrets only upon much reflection. More than any other filmmaker of his generation, even fellow visionaries like Wes Anderson, Todd Solondz, Alfonso Cuaron, or Guillermo Del Toto, you go to an Anderson film fully expecting to be interpreting it for a long time afterward.

There Will Be Blood is, without question, a great cinematic experience, visceral and absorbing. Anderson’s filmmaking has reached full maturity, and in Daniel Day-Lewis, Anderson has found his ideal onscreen alter ego, an actor as deliberate and mesmerizing as he is. As Daniel Planview, the self-described “oilman” whom we meet in 1898, as he sacrifices (in the film’s wordless, economically told first sequence) his health to extract the earth of its riches (gold, until he discovers something better), Day-Lewis is ferocious.

As with his performance in Martin Scorcese’s much-maligned 2002 Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis treads the line of parody here, talking, for some reason, like John Huston in Chinatown even before his character’s grasp on sanity and and reason begins to erode.

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