Monday, January 21, 2008

There Will Be Boos

I was able to catch the new PT Anderson film, There Will Be Blood, this past Friday night with a small and mixed audience. A few couples, two groups of twenty-somethings and the rest of the audience were comprised of folks like me, middle aged and seeing the film alone. As the end credits came up one of the twenty-somethings stood and to no one in particular and everyone in particular, stated, “That fucking sucked” before leaving with his buddy. I guess he was expecting Boogie Nights on an oil rig.
The middle aged folks stayed to watch the credits, the younger generation left like their feet were on fire; dropping snarky comments complete with giggles. I think the non-graying folks missed the two main themes of the film, at least what I saw as the main themes. You can never judge or trust a person by their words but you can always count on their true nature coming out through their actions. The other theme being we learn by observing and teaching will always be our truest legacy, not what we said or did in our lives. Listen to the experienced, watch how they act, let your actions speak for themselves and pass down your wisdom. In showing us these ideas, Anderson has succeded; and has created a new template to view American life. It felt a bit like Peckinpah, looked a bit like Ford and still has the Altman sensibility. This is his answer to the Kubrickean question.

Daniel Plainview is Ouroboros, this film is Ouroboros, we in turn are Ouroboros. Listen, learn and teach comes full cycle between teacher and student, child and parent. This story and the characters are cyclical in our reality and our history and in the world of film. There is the reality of the corporate state in the early 20th century and the loop we have made in return. The Plainview character should remind us all of someone we have worked with or for, and in him we should see our own nature. Oil has always driven us to bloodshed. The symbolism is almost too much and can at times overwhelm the story.

I should have seen this one coming when I read the reviews that mention Citizen Kane and noticed that the first 16 minutes resemble 2001: A Space Odyssey, while the ending reminds me of Lolita, a film which Kubrick began and ended with the same scene. Ouroboros. No wonder the twenty-somethings smirked as they left and the middle aged sat and watched the credits. They had no frame of reference and whatever they expected when they walked into the theater, it appears they didn't get what they came for.

There is the mixing of religion and the “Church of the Third Revelation” which is taken almost entirely from Spiritism and the Third Revelation movement, a sly reference to evangelist Billy Sunday, we even got a curve ball out it, maybe even a spit ball if you count Plainview's assaying technique. Cain and Abel, a variant of the name of God as spoken in Hebrew and Aramaic, the duality of man. Anderson reached very high with this film. He’s becoming a great storyteller and he’s entering a new phase of originality. Is he shooting arrows too far over our heads?

Perhaps this film will be a touchstone of our time, a representation of where America was in the early 21st century. Individualists with singular focus staking their own places out of society, while the business savvy corner the markets we all depend on. Raving lunacy for the spirit of God coming from false prophets of our time and their followers pointing pious fingers at the “weakness” of others while unable to hide their own hypocrisy and lusts.

As the old saying goes, those who fail to heed history are doomed to repeat it. Students of the Bible can tell us about “Generational Curses”. As for me…I’ll keep watching ATT gobble up all that they once divested, while staring at the Lucent logo and wondering if the National Recovery Administration logo looks dated.

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