Thursday, April 10, 2008

There will be some damn good acting...

I watched "There Will Be Blood" lsat night on DVD and not surprisingly, I enjoyed it and thought it was a very strong film, and certainly the best film that Paul Thomas Anderson has made. Boogie Nights and Magnolia had moments of brilliance but Anderson managed to ultimately fuck both of them up with second acts that failed to live up to the first half of both movies. His pretensions and obsequious hommages/thefts of Altmanesque characterization and story-telling have left me feeling enraged by the end of all his previous films. TWBB is his first film to feel fully realized and original and not derivative of other filmmakers. It's sense of dread and haunting despair is evident from the first frames of the film, not only due to Anderson's writing and direction, but the excellent and award winning camera work of Robret Elsit, the production design of Jack Fisk and the incredible score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.

And of course, lavish and deserving praise and awards have been heaped on Daniel Day Lewis's performance as Daniel Plainview and there's not much else left to say about it, that hasn't already been said. There's a scene about 2/3 of the way into the film where Plainview and his brother are on the beach having a conversation and the camera is centered on Day-Lewis's profile and his big boned, muscular face fills the screen and you think there is nothing that this man could not play and he could be the ultimate film actor. When he is onscreen, he consumes the space he inhabits by his very physical presence; there is no where else to look, or really, any desire to look at anything but him embodying a character. And you have to pity any actor who appears in a scene with Day-Lewis. Leonardo DiCaprio just looks lost in "Gangs of New York"; it's apparent by the look on his face that DiCaprio knows he can't compete with Day-Lewis.

But, there is an actor in TWBB who more than holds their own with Daniel Day-Lewis. Kevin J. O'Connor appears about half way through the film as Plainview's self proclaimed, long-lost brother. It's not a huge part; he's in the film for about half an hour, but O'Connor's quiet intensity and strength as an actor allows him several moments to shine in his scenes with Day-Lewis. O'Connor's character, Harry, is a shadow character to Plainview; similar in appearance and bone structure but smaller in size physically and stunted emotionally and spiritually. He's a Plainview that has been whipped by society and has resolved himself to living on the fringes and being grateful for the crumbs he has been given. His final scene with Plainview is a soft-spoken cry of desperation and a plea for forgiveness. O'Connor does an incredible job of embuing this broken man with a sense of humanity and quiet dignity. His final moments in the film are heart breaking, and after the character leaves the plot, you miss both the presence of the character and the actor who plays him.

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