Surprise, surprise: You’ll be hearing a lot more, eh, gushing about Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood from your friendly neighborhood Reverse Shotters in the days and weeks to come.
First up, Michael Koresky’s feature article on There Will Be Blood for Stop Smiling.
In the introduction to The Profits of Religion (1917), which he called a “study in Supernaturalism,” Upton Sinclair wrote: “Man is an evasive beast, given to cultivating strange notions about himself. He is humiliated by his simian ancestry, and tries to deny his animal nature, to persuade himself that he is not limited by its weaknesses nor concerned in its fate. And this impulse may be harmless, when it is genuine. But what are we to say when we see the formulas of heroic self-deception made use of by unheroic self-indulgence?” Sinclair’s common targets were distinctly American, the capitalist and the religious zealot, both seemingly locked in a self-serving quest for righteousness, and deceived by their own single-minded surety. With Sinclair’s status as a turn-of-the-century muckraker, tireless Socialist advocate, gubernatorial candidate, and even novelist all but forgotten by later generations (save 1906’s eternally cited The Jungle), a literal resuscitation of Sinclair’s point of view would be all but raising the dead. In There Will Be Blood, his new adaptation of Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, Paul Thomas Anderson wisely invokes Sinclair less as literal source material than as a guiding spirit. Anderson chose to focus only on the book’s first 150 pages, specifically the relationship between an oil prospector and his son, as well as the character of the antagonistic preacher Eli Sunday. Eliminating, among other things, the book’s advocacy for the rights of oilfield workers, Anderson’s whittling down of the novel brings his film even closer to Sinclair’s view of man as “evasive beast,” plagued by “unheroic self-indulgence.” Click here to read the article in its entirety.