Daily Archives: January 3, 2008

There Will Be Blood

From the Chicago Reader (January 3, 2008). I much prefer this film to Paul Thomas Anderson’s next feature, The Master, an incoherent mess with fewer compensations (despite the heavy breathing from some of my colleagues, who have compared it to Herman Melville); but for my money, neither film holds a candle to Magnolia.  — J.R.


Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth feature, a striking piece of American self-loathing loosely derived from Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, is lively as bombastic period storytelling but limited as allegory. The cynical shallowness of both the characters and the overall conception — American success as an unholy alliance between a turn-of-the-century capitalist (Daniel Day-Lewis) and a faith healer (Paul Dano), both hypocrites — can’t quite sustain the film’s visionary airs, even with good expressionist acting and a percussive score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Day-Lewis, borrowing heavily from Walter and John Huston, offers a demonic hero halfway between Thomas Sutpen in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and James Dean’s hate-driven tycoon in Giant (shot on the same location as this movie), but Kevin J. O’Connor in a slimmer part offers a much more interesting and suggestive character. This has loads of swagger, but for stylistic audacity I prefer Anderson’s more scattershot Magnolia.… Read more »

The Rape Of Europa

Based on a book by Lynn H. Nicholas, this fascinating film documents the plundering and destruction of art during World War II; the moving and hiding of art, precautionary and otherwise, that were sometimes carried out on a massive scale (such as the Louvre being virtually emptied ahead of the German invasion, and preparations made by residents of Florence prior to the Allied bombing); and subsequent heroic acts of recovery. Part of the history lesson being conveyed here is how different the cultural climate was back then: Hitler and G… Read more »

Stolen Desire

Shohei Imamura’s first feature (1958), shot in black-and-white ‘Scope, deals with a form of working-class Kabuki that attracted him as a college student, but its story about an itinerant troupe performing a striptease version of the form near Osaka isn’t very inspired. Nevertheless, Imamura characteristically finds some vitality in vulgaritythough his more prosaic working title, Tent Theatre, was rejected by the production company. In Japanese with subtitles. 92 min. (JR)… Read more »