Blood, this time around
The first thing the movie makes me remember is Daniel Day Lewis’ performance as Daniel Plainview. He’s all you see for the first fifteen minutes, even more. It’s funny that a performance mostly known for Day Lewis speaking through the roof of his mouth begins with silence. When he injures himself falling down his little oil well and has to go to a makeshift smelting office place thingy to give them his chunk of silver. He is lying down on the dusty field and seconds later we cut to the office and he’s still lying down, and the audience believes that he slithered his way there.
He asks about HW’s friend/future wife Mary. He then plays around with Mary and tells her that there will be no more hitting. Yet he can’t get no love from her since she feels so uncomfortable.
Also, is that Daniel’s feeling being hurt? He has feelings? He conveys the feeling knowing how distant he is from his real family without the gaping mouth that any amateur would. This scene also subverts Daniel’s image of a family man, an image that he tries to present in his business dealings and one that his competitors have eventually debunked. Yet he stitches his wounds and moves on.
There is subtlety and naturalism to Day Lewis’ work here. His reading of ‘why don’t I own that,’ for example. He makes business talk within a business themed film to be more interesting than it should. There’s also the first time he talks to the realtor, more hilarious since I know what he’s up to.
The movie frames him as a nicer, insecure yet misunderstood guy this time around, although the denouement makes the audience realize that he unfortunately just doesn’t know how to convey his niceness to other people.
I’ve always contended that Brad Pitt gave the best performance that year. The only other nominees I’ve seen are Depp and Viggo, who are worthy adversaries. I always believe in apples and oranges, but there’s something physical and direct about his Day-Lewis’ role and performance. He had a lot to do, did it, won an Oscar for it.
Speaking of performances, adult HW’s closeups are just as effective.
O hai Ciaran Hinds! In all honesty, I didn’t know who Ciaran Hinds was til last year. Oh, that makes it worse!
The movie operates in large strokes, Instead of plot revelations where one thing happens one minute after another, the film focuses on one main action that percolates within five to ten minutes. We see one thing and we see the consequences for the rest of an allotted time. Sometimes, like Daniels’ scene with adult HW, it develops through dialogue, while in others, when a derrick explodes, the film lets nature take control.
Some of its audience might be reductive their perception of a movie by saying it’s two and a half hours of fields or business talk. But the personalities within the movie, specifically Daniel and Eli (Paul Dano) makes it accessible. They declare instead of whisper. And so quotable!
A movie is funnier if you watch it with more people. ‘Just give me the water, Eli’ and ‘That was a hell of a show’ in that straightforward delivery was funnier, as well as every scene where Eli gets owned. I wasn’t laughing the first time I saw those violent moments, I felt Kubrickian shock. I first saw the movie at the VIP section. One of the employees asked me if what kind of food/drinks I wanted, but it was such an ascetic experience that I had to take seriously. This was in March 2008, or February, before the Oscars. This was the most important movie of all time and I couldn’t laugh at anything. This time, I was starving yet I could laugh.
I remember the blues and the warm colours. I should smack myself for forgetting the foliage depicted within the movie. I also don’t remember the movie being this dark looking. And how menacing the first shot is of the mountains. And the symmetry, of course.
And the music. The only ones I’ve retained are the ones in the beginning and its beehive effect and the Cormac-esque fiddle in the end, the latter I haven’t been able to find. I’ve listened to the soundtrack a lot, it gets me through winter. I tried to keep a mental note on which tracks were playing in which scenes.
I am also one of the few people who will defend Paul Dano’s performance, his Eli building on the foundations that Burt Lancaster has in “Elmer Gantry.” He’s supposed to be annoying and over the top. He’s also the reason we have such a bad impression of Daniel, popping up at the wrong time to ask for the money that Daniel already paid to Eli’s brother Paul (Paul Dano). He sermons like Elvis.
I waited two years to rewatch this movie, and it is the best way to rewatch is to let it gather dust instead of watching it to death. Although the movie still fails the Bechdel test.