Tuesday, February 19, 2008


GREED (1924, Erich von Stroheim)
Erich von Stroheim’s 1924 silent film Greed is one of the most extraordinary achievements in film history. One that was far ahead of its time and certainly paved the way for modern cinema (and for notable masterworks, such as Orson Welles’ monumental Citizen Kane). Greed succeeds in a blend of complex realism with highly stylized cinematic technique rarely matched. The deep focus of the compositions give the film a timeless visual quality and its emotionally tragic humanism foreshadows that of Jean Renoir (who undoubtedly has been a pivotal influence to both Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson). The core of There Will Be Blood is the battle of capitalism against religion, and greed is the driving force.

CITIZEN KANE (1941, Orson Welles)
Many have compared Paul Thomas Anderson’s film to Orson Welles renowned American classic. The most obvious connection of the film lies in the lead characters and the sense of greed and depression they carry. Welles’ newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane easily reminds one of Daniel Day-Lewis’ oil man Daniel Plainview, and Anderson’s grandiose filmmaking certainly recalls that of Welles. Channeling Kane’s rise from early modest beginnings to alienated madness, There Will Be Blood may differ only in that the arch of the Plainview characterization doesn’t necessarily change, and the sentiment of a connection to humanity (such as Kane’s Rosebud) is absent. Plainview’s humanity only emerges from his unrelenting (and primitive) determination. I think ultimately they are quite different, but it is interesting comparing these two characters and films, both of which are destined to be placed among the iconic films of American cinema.

BARRY LYNDON (1975, Stanley Kubrick)
From the opening image (and accompanying music) There Will Be Blood resonates with thoughts and feelings of Stanley Kubrick, and this continues throughout the film (even all the way through the end credits). Certainly direct comparisons can be made with The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange. However, I think There Will Be Blood is most comparative with Kubrick’s 1975 masterpiece Barry Lyndon (perhaps his most perfect film overall). There is a similar structure and mood to the way these films operate and as such they are likely to divide audiences. Like There Will Be Blood, Barry Lyndon leaves a cold and empty feeling. Yet emptiness is essential in each film and it is a bold achievement on the part of the filmmakers for their precise vision, unrelenting to convention.

>> There are definitely more films I would say make good encore selections alongside There Will Be Blood including Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole (1951), Elia Kazan’s East of Eden (1955), George Stevens Giant (1956), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), and as previously mentioned anything else from Stanley Kubrick- notably The Shining (1980), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971).


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