Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I have seen several reviews mentioning how Paul Thomas Anderson's newest film, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, has nothing in common with his previous work. I even read one critic who said that if his name wasn't listed as director that no one would be able to distinguish that it was his film. I disagree with statement all the way around, for while it might be a stylistic break in many ways for Anderson, he is still focusing on the idea of family and specifically the complex relationships between (sometimes adoptive) fathers and sons that has been at the center of all of his films, with the exception of PUNCH DRUNK LOVE (which at the very least has an absent father as a key plot point).
As I was watching THERE WILL BE BLOOD over the weekend the thought occurred to me that we are lucky enough to be witnessing the journey of someone that I will believe will someday be looked upon as one of the true great American directors. The flashes of Altman, Kubrick, and Scorsese are all there as well as Michael Cimino, but Anderson is also reaching back to John Ford, John Huston and I think especially George Stevens. I recently read an interview where he listed GIANT (1956) as one of his favorite films and images of James Dean's destroyed Jett Rink at the end of that film kept popping into my head as I watched THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
Anderson's new film is a momentous achievement and it is also a very complex one. I saw it with four other people and we all found that we had differing opinions about key plot points in the film. It caused discussion...which is a really wonderful and rare thing for a modern American film to do. The film demands reviewing and I am going to hold off writing in detail on it until I can see it at least a couple of more times. Right now I just need to let its powerful, dazing affect settle in. I am curious to see on my revisiting of the film if I still think it is flawed in certain spots and as brilliant in others as I think it is right now.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a major work but I suspect that a lot of Paul Thomas Anderson's fans, myself included, who have been with him since HARD EIGHT over a decade ago will probably have to nurse a little nostalgia and probably a little sweet sadness as the film does mark a significant change for him. Gone is the family that we came to love who populated his first four films and it is hard to not miss them. Anderson seems to stand alone now but I can't imagine not following him. THERE WILL BE BLOOD isn't a betrayal of his past work but a distinct branching off. I will follow him down any road he chooses to travel and I frankly can't wait to see where he takes me next.