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There will be Blood

February 25, 2008

OK, I don’t get it. This is supposed to be the cinematic experience of the year, indeed, one of the best films ever committed to celluloid.

I thought it was boring.

I have been watching the reviews for this one. Every single decent source has given it five stars, called it perfect, masterful, epic. Here’s The Guardian, in a typical piece of hyperbole:

“This is a dark, uncompromising film, thrillingly original and distinctive, with a visionary passion. It is a movie against which all directors, and all moviegoers, will want to measure themselves. Paul Thomas Anderson is doing something new with cinema, and you can hardly ask for more than that.”

Did you get that?

“It is a movie against which all directors, and all moviegoers, will want to measure themselves”.

Did we watch the same film? If so, I am clearly a failure at moviegoing. It’s only February, and I’ve seen a number of better films this year, in this order: In the Valley of Elah, No Country for Old Men and Lust, Caution. Hell, I even enjoyed My Blueberry Nights and Juno more than this, although they are slighter films.

The film is epic. But ‘epic’ isn’t another word for ‘good’. It’s another word for ‘long’.

Long, tedious and up itself. Legends of the Fall was epic too, remember.

The themes in There will be Blood are grand, and deserving of cinematic treatment: the beginning of capitalism in America, its birth in lies, sweat and desperation, how it was sanctified by a corrupt and grasping religion, its enduring psychosis and need to sustain itself with violence.

It’s an evil system, personified in the life and lusts of the main character, Daniel Plainview. His quest for wealth and power stems not from any desire to do good, to create something useful, or provide for a family. It is born of hate, resentment and the need to dominate lesser men. Plainview both needs and resents the sanctifying power of the Church, represented by the insanely shamanic figure of the ‘false prophet’ Eli Sunday, who is able to frame the exploitation of the land in Biblical language.

These points are well made. But the film doesn’t engage. It shows, indeed lectures and harangues, but doesn’t grab us by the balls and make us care one way or another about the characters. It’s brilliantly acted, but so what?

I couldn’t wait to get out of the cinema.

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