An oldie, but one I'm quite proud of...

When the king holds court, he is not to be disturbed. And so it is for oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, becoming richer by the second as his derricks pump black gold from the veins of the California earth, when Holy Roller Eli Sunday walks quietly but determinedly up to him midway through There Will Be Blood. Earlier in the film, Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) promises Sunday (Paul Dano) $5,000 for the coffers of the young preacher's church in return for the liquid that surges and pools beneath the land; despite the gusher he quickly hits, Plainview fails to pay up, and Sunday has come for his money. The beating that ensues is one-sided, to say the least: Plainview knocks Sunday to the ground with resounding blows to the face, the evangelist recoiling until he finds himself backed into a pit of muddy, sludgy oil. Plainview literally rubs Sunday's face in it, humiliating him by shoving fistfuls of this unholy ointment into his mouth. He chokes off Sunday's own formidable power, his spooky whisper, until it is a desperate gargle.
Various critics have written of There Will Be Blood's innumerable cinematic influences — Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Chinatown, Citizen Kane, even 2001: A Space Odyssey — but the words that popped into my head watching this drubbing were about another film, one that Anderson himself has said was an influence.
The fighting isn't fast or fancy; no one's a quick draw or a sharpshooter. Instead, the fisticuffs are slow and awkward and unfailingly human; it's a sloppy fight, with men crawling on the ground and clawing at each other's legs. The other men stand idly by, watching these Americans make fools of themselves in a land they fail to understand. And though Dobbs and Curtin win the battle, there's no clear winner once the film's bigger picture emerges: The money they get from McCormick leads, almost fatefully, to their ruin.
I wrote that about the barroom brawl near the beginning of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but the description of the fight itself, and the consequences it breeds, seem equally applicable here. There Will Be Blood is, to be somewhat reductive, about battles: capitalism against Christianity, optimism against pessimism, past against present, gangster against Westerner. There may be a clear winner at first sight, but Anderson's epic bristles with layers of meaning, densely allusive and fiercely, almost willfully, strange. In the end, it seems, the film foresees both kings "fast finishing," and watching the violent descent allows a glimpse into America's very own heart of darkness.

For the full article: http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/60/60bloodbrennan.html

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