Corliss on “Blood”

In a capsule review, Time critic Richard Corliss — usually a fairly adventurous sort and certainly no rigid conservative — has slammed Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage, 12.26), using terms like “daft” and “deranged zone.” No worries — it’s a solvable issue. Corliss has to see it a second time, is all.

After my first Blood screening, I knew it was masterful but I felt traumatized, appalled, thrown off. The second time I saw it for what it was — a diseased but riveting American epic without an ounce of fat or pretense — and the matter of my initial emotional response went by the wayside.

“Ambition can drive a man to greatness or drive him to destruction, or do both,” Corliss begins. “That was the theme of many novels of the early 20th century. One, Upton Sinclair‘s “Oil”, is the inspiration for this inward, wayward epic that spans 30 years of a tycoon’s career. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, parading surface charm over a black heart) builds an oil empire on his tenacity, his ruthlessness and his seeming saving grace: a devotion to his son (Dillon Freasier), whom he totes from job to job.

“Anderson’s previous movies (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love) all teemed with vigorous eccentrics muscling themselves onto the screen. This film is stern, unaccommodating and, finally, daft. It’s of a mind with its antihero, who says, ‘I don’t care to explain myself.’ By the end, when Daniel faces off with a longtime preacher rival (Paul Dano), the movie has retreated into its own deranged zone, to which even sympathetic viewers are forbidden.”

43 thoughts on “Corliss on “Blood”

  1. I cannot wait to see There Will Be Blood. I am a huge fan of PTA’s work, all of it, and was just watching Boogie Nights this past weekend. What an amazing film, first frame to last. I adore Punch Drunk Love, watch it at least twice a year; no other romantic comedy like it out there. A true original. That’s what I find so exciting about PTA’s work…it comes from a truly original work. Sure, like lots of filmmakers, he pays homage to his favorite filmmakers and favorite films, but his writing style and the characters that he creates all exude an original, fascinating voice. I’m almost scared to think about how amazing the teaming of PTA and Daniel Day Lewis will be. The cinematography, just from the trailers, has left me breathless. Christmas Day can’t get here soon enough.

  2. nemo>> Agree one hundred percent. The concept of a “deranged zone” that is not immediately accessible to viewers is irresistible and fascinating if it’s coming from a filmmaker like PTA.

  3. The trailer makes the movie iffy for me. While Day Lewis’s accent and only-an-actor-would-talk-this-way speech mannerisms are entertaining in a two minute trailer, I could imagine they’d be grating when you have to listen to them continuously for two hours. His over-enunciation reminds me of Hugo Weaving in The Matrix.

  4. I agree with Nemo. It sure sounds like Corliss wanted to be mean by saying “the movie has retreated into its own deranged zone, to which even sympathetic viewers are forbidden”.

    How can a smart guy like Corliss think that is a negative in the movie? The people that are going to see this movie KNOW that about it and it’s one of the main reasons to see it.

  5. You’re gonna love it, actionman. You liked Jesse James, and this is a similar lengthy, moody, beautifully-photographed (but not pretty/glossy) character-driven period piece. One major difference, though, is that TWBB is pretty much a one-man show, acting-wise. Even Paul Dano has a fraction of DDL’s screen time.

    I would bet money that you’ll see it two or three times on the big screen. I can’t wait to see it again. Are they really waiting until freakin’ Christmas? Well, it’ll be perfect counter-programming.

    I wonder if there’s any truth to the rumor that the original title was Young Dick Cheney.

  6. William Blake said: The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.

    Blake would say the same of Corliss’s attempt to slam There Will Be Blood — Corliss is of the Devils party without knowing it.

  7. Paul Thomas Anderson has to be one of the most overrated, annoying, whiny directors of my generation… This review is the tip of the iceberg. Of course I will be there at an advanced screening to swoon over Day lewis’s performance.

  8. I’d rather walk across shattered glass than sit through this movie again but I do think I’ll suffer it through it one more time — there are three key moments in the film I am not looking forward to seeing again but there are also great moments I’d like to see again that I think are some of the best cinematic moments of the year. On the other hand, he is to me someone who is dressing up in daddy’s big suit – taking on the more challenging material but not quite mature enough as an artist to have anything truly profound to say, especially about people. Orson Welles did it better at 24, managing to see well beyond his years and to observe something deep, lasting and profound about his Kane. But there are flickers of brilliance and talent in PTA – he needs a healthy dose of humility is all. IMO.

  9. I don’t know the first thing about Paul T Anderson.

    I don’t know where he’s from, I don’t know who his influences are, I don’t know what his relationship with his parents is and I don’t know what his religious affilitions are. I only know that I’ve enjoyed 2 of his 4 films.

    Sometimes I wonder about all you “haters” who gobble up every personal detail like school girls.

  10. All you need to know about him is up on the screen.

    This site, readers of it, are very much into three movies: Zodiac, Jesse James and There Will Be Blood. All three movies are long and epic in scope. All three are primarily about brooding males. All three dance around the identity of a key figure in the film – someone out of reach, untouchable, cold. Killers and sociopaths. All three have magnificent cinematography. Yet all three (with the possible exception of Jesse James) are lacking in depth.

    You can project anything you want onto them, which is kind of cool, and certainly they are thrillingly acted and executed. To sit at the cool kids table in THIS crowd you have to like these three movies. I have a distant admiration for them but I will never love them. It doesn’t really matter, though, because all you need to know is that if you’re a reader of this site you’re probably going to love There Will Be Blood.

    It has nothing to do with “gobbling up personal details,” though.

  11. Oh I just realized you thought “dressing up in daddy’s suit” was somehow a biographical detail rather than a metaphor or whatever — no, I have no clue about his personal life.

    Anyway, Cinemablend just put out their review — they liked the movie but wish PTA would go back to making movies like Boogie Nights (they do give it four out of five stars):

    “Instead, There Will Be Blood is two hours of intense navel gazing, or rather mustache gazing. Most of the film is spent examining the intricacies of Daniel Day-Lewis’s mustache. That might sound like a knock on the movie, but the mustache is part of Day-Lewis’s portrayal of an utterly fascinating and complex character: early twentieth century oil man Daniel Planview.”

    Another quote:

    “Actually, if there’s one word that accurately describes There Will Be Blood, it’s real. Maybe too real to keep popcorn audiences interested, but for more patient moviegoers Daniel Day-Lewis’s hypnotic performance makes it a must see. Still, as much as I found myself liking There Will Be Blood, I can’t help but hope that Anderson doesn’t make this a habit. Alright Paul, doing one movie like this is interesting. Well done. But let’s not make a tradition out of it. For your next one, do us all a favor and give us back Boogie Nights PT Anderson.”

    http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/There-Will-Be-Blood-2735.html

  12. Zimmergirl’s analysis of PTA was very accurate. PTA has been brilliant but erratic. And I dislike movies which are a roller coaster ride of violence which gen-Xers somehow mistake for profundity.

    Although it was about an unsavory subject, “Boogie Nights” was very trenchant and grounded in moral truth. It might be PTA’s “Citizen Kane.”

    Daniel Day Lewis is an actor so protean, nuanced, and affected he could turn a laundry list into poetry. That he is a great actor there is no doubt. But just because Day Lewis expresses it does not mean it is a truth about the human condition.

    There has been great reportage and comments about “Blood” here. I can’t wait to see it.

    Why do details of PTA’s life interest me? He was the son of Ghoulardi, a man far more relevant to modern denizens than Daniel Plainview.

  13. “This site, readers of it, are very much into three movies: Zodiac, Jesse James and There Will Be Blood. All three movies are long and epic in scope. All three are primarily about brooding males. All three dance around the identity of a key figure in the film – someone out of reach, untouchable, cold. Killers and sociopaths. All three have magnificent cinematography. Yet all three (with the possible exception of Jesse James) are lacking in depth.”

    Zimmergirl – I think you have a good point, and I have been wondering about the way that the Internet in general, and this site in particular, have been in love with “Zodiac” ever since I saw it. [It also seems like everybody in LA thinks it's brilliant.]

    But I don’t think ‘Jesse James’ belongs in the same category, myself, and I’m personally hoping that ‘There Will be Blood’ doesn’t either. I think ‘Jesse James’ has a lot more depth than you might be giving it credit for; compare it to over-hyped movies like ‘The Proposition’ (a western I feel is far more deserving to be included on your list) and you’ll see the sort of depth it has.

    It has genuine emotional depth, something I can see a PTA movie as easily lacking, something “Zodiac” had not a drop of (no Fincher movie does). “Jesse James” is the real deal.

  14. Zimmergirl, I think you’re not giving Zodiac and Jesse James a fair chance. Both films possess a great deal of depth, and tell us something about the world we live in. What films have you liked from this year?

  15. Wow, where to begin.

    Let’s start with Zimmergirl. You might be shocked how much better this movie plays the 2nd time around and you might have a different perspective on those scenes that troubled you. Maybe. Everyone brings their own thing to every movie, I’m just saying the 2nd time I saw Daniel Plainview in a totally different light and it made for a better movie.

    The first time through, he was just this force of nature, different from Bill the Butcher, but similar in his impact. This time he was much more of a human being. Nuanced and damnit…admirable. A ruthless monster? Yes. But also a man and not above remorse and guilt….that’s one of the keys to the tragic aspect of it all.

    At the very least, you’ve said yourself that it’s brilliant filmmaking and for that reason alone it deserves another go. If you hate it as much the 2nd time, I’ll buy you lunch.

    Actionman. You’re in for a treat, but also be prepared for something unlike PTA has ever delivered before. TWBB is to his previous work as No Country is to that of the Coens. It’s a different filmmaker…and yet the same.

    Nemo. Corliss is paying the film an unintended compliment of the highest order with his last line. And if you remove the oddly out of placed ‘daft’ from his earlier crack, he’s actually right on. Stern and unaccomodating indeed. So what, he needs to have his hand held? Perhaps he’d like someone to shake off his pee pee for him in the can after the movie.

    Wells. Yes Corliss needs to see the movie again, but he has to want to see it. You said yourself you were stunned, but eager to have another crack. Corliss just sounds put off. His loss.

    Gus. Don’t ever judge a work of art by the trailer. The trailer is to sell it to dopes who only see 5 or 6 movies in a year. You’re smarter than that. And Daniel Day-Lewis is the exact opposite of grating. He’s a wonder to watch. I shit you not when I say you can’t take your eyes off him whenever he’s on screen. If you leave the theater unmoved by DDL, I’ll buy you lunch also. And I’m not just talking McDonald’s either.

    Seriously. All of you. If for no other reason than to prove that smug tool Ian Sinclair wrong (which really is more than enough reason to get anyone up in the morning, isn’t it?), go see this movie as soon as you can. Give it a day or two to sink in, then go back and see it again.

  16. Of the three, Jesse James is the best, imo. There is depth there, real depth, not just because a good actor brings it out. That is the one I really want to sit with for a few viewings. I’m sorry but I didn’t feel that I was in accomplished, knowing hands watching There Will Be Blood – it felt haphazard to me, interesting but nowhere near deep enough to warrant any kind of thought. His point was made in the first fifteen minutes and then after that it’s just like squashing the cockroach over and over again. Me, I like layered meaning but with the touch of an artist who has an idea where he’s going and very knowingly guides his viewers to that point, leaving clues along the way. I don’t think, in the end, that there will be much to discover in There Will Be Blood that isn’t very clear from the outset: asshole guy, fucked up oil man, screwed the people to get what he wanted. And yeah so? We live in the wake of the tragedy every fucking day – every time I go to the pump. The point was made in the first act.

    Beyond that, the whole god and man thing wasn’t interesting or complex enough to hold my interest. The very last scene sold out any complexity to me. It was, to my mind, a simplistic take on a very complex subject.

    Anyway, I will see it again to see if anything comes up. Again, I think watching it is akin to sitting through Breaking the Waves. Point is made early on the rest is just a violent wanking of the noodle.

  17. I bet Zimmer Girl couldn’t sit through it because she couldn’t go that long without eating. Long movies are tough on a woman like that, she needs snacks!

  18. Jeez, Jeff, you’re getting dangerously close to suggesting waterboarding for critics who don’t agree with you.

    FYI, there are many many critics who disagree with you on some of your fave pics and they aren’t all idiots.

    So…don’t automatically attack the Academy voters if they don’t march in lockstep to your tastes, as there are also many tasteful, adventurous non-voters (like Corliss) who see sometimes frailities where you see magnificence.

  19. Don’t worry, Ian, I don’t begrudge a vapid fanboy his petty torments. If it keeps him huddled more closely to PTA because he is one of his soldiers – out there fighting for the betterment of There Will Be Blood, one fat girl at a time. Go out and get ‘em, Marko!

  20. I’m not a fanboy, if I was, I’d have seen the movie already. But keep commenting, Zimmer, you definitely have a face for print.

  21. I don’t think it’s a requirement that you be a fanboy to get to see the movie early just that you have a website in LA or NY. It isn’t that hard, Marko. Surely you can up your status on these boards by self-promoting yourself to fanboy status – then you can hurl the ugly/fat jokes AND defend the movie because you will have already seen it.

    Just imagine, “you fat, ugly, disgusting bitch – if I had a dime for the amount of fat rolls that pop out of your mid-section oh and by the way, the scene where Daniel Day-Lewis gets slapped around by Paul Dano was pure genius and only fat/ugly girls like you will be unmoved.” You see? It’s so much more useful. Let me know if you ever want tips on how to become one of these guys who gets to see movies early. The fat jokes thing on its own? It’s kind of beneath you.

  22. Zimmergirl, I never called you a bitch. But I think it’s pretty common knowledge on this site that you are pretty overweight and not too attractive. At least in the photos I’ve seen on you, ones on this site included. Maybe that’s why you run your mouth off so much…it’s all you’ve got.

  23. Jesus, Marko, what the hell? Please let us not make a habit of this kind of “discourse”. Oh, and criticising someone fot having an opinion on a discussion-board is kind of moronic too

  24. Jesus, Marko, what the hell? Please let us not make a habit of this kind of “discourse”. Oh, and criticising someone for having an opinion on a discussion-board is kind of moronic too

  25. “His point was made in the first fifteen minutes and then after that it’s just like squashing the cockroach over and over again.”

    Zim – that sure sounds like ‘Magnolia’ to me. Too bad. ‘Punch Drunk Love’ was so interesting and unique that I was hoping he had grown into his own filmmaker. Instead, he made just another drum solo (which is to say, no matter how good a drum solo is, it’s basically the same thing repeated ad nauseum, and can’t really sustain itself for too long, not that they don’t try; this is not a knock against drummers, just drum solos).

  26. Marko = c*nt. Let me guess: the girls (or boys, let’s be fair), just walk past you as if you weren’t there at all. Am I close? Tell me when it gets too personal. Bet it’s tiring after a long day of typing craven little missives with one hand and using to other to– whoa, that was probably way too personal, right? But look at the bright side, you’ll always have craigslist’s casual encounters and AOL chat to fall back on.

  27. Eve, I don’t know who you are or what you look like…and you have no idea what I’m like or the people I date. I think ZG is the one we all know is large and in charge, and she is the one who probably needs to utilize craigslist to get men to talk to her. You are probably the same: fat chicks band together.

  28. BAHAHAHAHAH! You mean “date” in quotes, right? Because I have a feeling the “people” you “date” might not see it that way. You’re among friends, why not come clean about your obsessions, Marko? You know you want to!

  29. Eve, I don’t even know why you got involved in this in the first place. If ZG wants to defend herself, she can. Oh wait, she’s probably too busy eating, or looking for a boyfriend online. Something tells me she’ll never find one. and neither will you.

  30. Your OCD is getting really tedious, Marko, so I’ll throw you a line, friend to friend: people who live in glass closets shouldn’t throw stones.

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