“A screaming comes across the sky,” Thomas Pynchon famously opened “Gravity’s Rainbow.” “It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” opens with landscape and Man: a man named Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis). Man seeks Oil, or “Oil!,” the title of the 1927 Upton Sinclair novel that Anderson drew from for bits of his story. There is sound, beautiful, terrible sound, not screaming, but keening, a physicalization of Plainview’s inner state (much like Jon Brion’s empathetic score for “Punch-Drunk Love”), composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. After he finds oil, and covets more oil, and finds speech, Plainview has the ragged character and memorable burr of both a John Huston character and John Huston himself, but the character is a singularity in his drive and incuriosity: “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people. There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I see the worst in people. I don’t’ need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I want to rule and never, ever explain myself.” The ending of Anderson’s bold, fevered, impassioned, obstinate, consummately realized masterpiece is already controversial, confounding at first. Read as parable, for the vanquishing of religion by money, or more fully, that the absorption of both sincere and feigned religiosity by soulless, moneyed men, can finish us all, the movie attains wide-eyed greatness. Yet as a concrete object, of rugged, forceful filmmaking and relentless performance, “There Will Be Blood” has no need of its subtext. Yet it bubbles, seethes, trickles, pours and, yes, geysers. With Paul Dano, madly messianic, as Plainview’s Pentecostal antagonist, Eli Sunday of the Church of the Third Revelation. (Their two-man vaudeville of salvation late in the movie is darkling comedy in brightest streaming light.) There’s so much to say about this movie, but first, it must be seen. 158m. Anamorphic 2.40 widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“There Will Be Blood” gushes Friday at Landmark Century.