Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic There Will Be Blood had its first public screening tonight as the Closing Night Film (and as a super secret screening) of Fantastic Fest 2007. Make no mistake, this is an amazing work of art. As one of the Fantastic Fest programmers, I’ve known this film was coming our way for a while now, so don’t chalk this up to sheer surprise or excitement or bias: There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the year. Daniel Day-Lewis is obviously a major component of it, but Anderson’s poetic treatment of the material cannot be dismissed. Plus, in a pleasant turn of events, co-star Paul Dano delivers a delicious and demented performance that could earn some serious award consideration a few months from now. God Bless P.T. Anderson, for making his fifth consecutive slam dunk. I’m just so stunned and impressed and shaken by this film.
For the first 15 minutes or so, there is no dialogue. Just men at work, and a swelling violin by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. And then, oil! Before long, Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview is doing what he can to uncover more of it, at any price. This leads to the discovery of a small community sitting “on an ocean of oil.” Plainview sets up shop, but ends up warring against Dano’s Eli Sunday, a young evangelist out to preach God’s will and save souls. It soon becomes a battle between the two enterprising men, and each actor explodes with charisma and terror. Anderson is the architect of some great American stories, and this is one of his finest. Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s book, Oil!, the film is all Anderson. There are flourishes of Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, and Robert Altman (to whom the film is dedicated) but Anderson steps up his game as a master filmmaker beautifully telling a very scary story.
It was a great way to end the third annual Fantastic Fest. I think it was a great year. And, at the Closing Night Party, fellow organizers Tim League and Harry Knowles both looked at me and we just had a moment of pride. Here are some pictures I took in the final few days: