Watched There Will Be Blood last night.
I’d always refused to see There Will Be Blood because I’d somehow gotten it into my head that it was a movie about boxing, and no one could convince me otherwise.
I don’t do boxing movies.
But the character of Daniel Plainview was reportedly based on the character James Arnold Ross in Upton Sinclair’s Oil; and Ross was reportedly based on the real-life Edward Doheny. West of Eden had left me curious about Edward Doheny. The Teapot Dome Scandal!
When people descry the present political horror show, they always forget about the Teapot Dome Scandal.
Anyway, There Will Be Blood is quite the riveting film. Extraordinary Antonioni-like cinematography, and Daniel Day-Lewis’s Plainview could have been a double for my real-life father right down to the lurching alcoholism and the gravely voice.
The movie’s final scenes were filmed at Greystone, the mansion in Beverly Hills Doheny had built for his son, about which Raymond Chandler wrote, The house itself was not so much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace, rather gray for California, and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler Building.
The most famous line from There Will Be Blood is this one: “I drink your milkshake.”
The line is so innately hilarious, and I had seen it parodied so many times that it never occurred to me that there could exist a context in which the line could be absolutely chilling.
But indeed there is.
The line was actually cribbed from Albert Fall’s testimony during the Teapot Dome congressional hearings. At the time of the hearings, Fall was a senator from New Mexico, but back in the day, he’d been Doheny’s bagman. He was explaining how oil drainage works: Sir, if you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and my straw reaches across the room, I’ll end up drinking your milkshake.
The slurping noises, heavy breathing and palsied madness are all Day-Lewis’s improvisations, though.
Everything about the final coda of the film is a standout from Day-Lewis’s performance to the fade-out strains of Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major but what makes it particularly brilliant is that one false move, and the whole thing would have played out like a farce.
In contrast, the ending of Citizen Kane—a film that’s an obvious comparison to There Will Be Blood—signals its portentousness. Which, I think, lessens its effect.
Anyway, I thought the movie was very good. People do hit each other! But, no: It’s not about boxing.
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