Robert Lalonde’s review published on Letterboxd:
A Needed Change
by: Robert Joseph Alexander Dalma Hicklin Lalonde
As we dawn on the over used expression of “the next 100 years of cinema”; I am left to ponder if filmmakers (and better yet society) learned their lessons about what to do and what to trash when it comes to film. Have we not learned a single thing in over 100 years. Why are studios still dishing out mediocrity like 27 Dresses, Cloverfield, Fools Gold and countless others? It also makes me question today's public and there need for anything. Why can't things like Assassination of Jessie James By the Coward Robert Ford and There Will Be Blood get the credit they deserve from film goers, rather than just film buffs and pertinacious film school students. You can argue that I like everything that is not mainstream; but to that I say they are trying to change things and I respect them for that. I think most films since 1999 are just the same old thing being regurgitated to the public and we are swallowing it up. I think it is a little crazy that film expanded and grew so much until Michael Cimino came in and got greedy with Heaven's Gate. From that I took 14 years for a video store clerk to come in and change cinema again. Granted this time he was just trying to improve thing not really change them but it was a significant time in film history. Few films have changed the way filmmakers do things and when something now comes out that has the chance to do something the public for some reason tries to dismiss it and try to avoid it like the plague. I find it crazy that we learn about films made in 1920 and they are better produced and directed than 95% of the things out there today. The need to add more gore and remake everything out there is not helping anything either. Did Hitchcock not teach nobody anything, "Less is More". Some things need that element of gore, but they don't need to be blatantly used in torture porn like Hostel and I Know Who Killed Me. Fred Vogel is using that in the August Underground series to show off his special effect skills and change some elements in horror; whereas Eli Roth and the Hostel series are just doing it to push boundaries and there really is no art left there. Having this in the brink of my mind as I usually do when I go see new movies I expect something good but nothing like I was about to experience. I sat in The Varsity Cinemas in Toronto Ontario Canada on the first weekend in January, as I usually do on Friday nights and waited for Paul Thomas Anderson's new film to engulf me like everything he has done previously. Personally I have liked films in the new millennium but the last classics other than the Lord of the Rings series in my opinion were Magnolia, American Beauty and American History X. So of course I expected to see something good from one of my favorite directors, but nothing like I was about to witness. This is finally a film we can study and have a decent conversation about again. Daniel Day Lewis starts and doesn't quit with this incendiary performance that could only be held up by someone like Brando or Pacino. Day Lewis became Daniel Plainview; from the limp to the squint to the sheer terror and coldness in his voice. This is the kind of transformation Brando gave in On The Waterfront and Apocalypse Now. There is method acting and there is what I would like to term as Brando acting. There is just greed flowing from Plainview and it could not have been better performed. The next thing that grabs you from the opening frame is the score by Jonny Greenwood. With a mix of Johannes Brahms, John Williams and the Native American tribal folk songs, be get this blend of Kubrick like score. It is perfectly placed at the most unexpected times to add to Plainview's state of mind and where the film will eventually lead us. It is also very fitting to have Brahms Violin Concerto in D as the final farewell to Eli and the audience. It entire soundtrack was a great mood setter and added the historical beats and still making it modern. It also was a fitting companion to Robert Elswit's indisputable masterpiece of cinematography. The use of Anamorphic lenses and PTA's notorious spontaneity on set forced Elswit to think on his feet even though he was running. This provides a cinematic experience that is just not seen anymore. Directors and cinematographers don't take risks anymore. Sure every 10 years there might be a Scorsese film but other than that there is not too much. The choice to shoot on Anamorphic rather than Super 35 gives the film that classic feel and chance for creative spontaneity; the Super High Speed 35mm to 85mm lenses didn't hurt either. This is the reason the flares in the film look so organic rather than the flares used in your local film school films. The other thing that works is every thing was actually done and not artificially put in. PTA is super old school that way and let things be. From the burning of the rig to the cinematicly genius ending, everything was raw emotion and just added to this work. It is also amazing to think about the lighting and how Kubrick Anderson wanted to approach it. It was just not the same circumstances yet they pulled it off anyway. The use of darkness worked also to capture the power of the environment, time period and the characters. The camera work was also fa-nominal. It was slow and daunting were it needed to be and dutch'ed and warped at those particular moments which also helps to stand it out above most films that are trying to artsy for the sake of being artsy these days. This film also didn't play with todays current standpoint on oil. Anderson did an amazing job to not have any political standpoints to make or try to bash things. He went to make a film to stand the test of time and I think it will. The running time is for some reason getting on peoples nerves also. This is a great amount of time to tell a story of this magnitude and even another hour would have been sufficient. This is not the kind of story that should be told in 90min. It's an epic film and needs to be treated as one. The only thing in this film that you can bash would be Paul Dano's split charectership. This is the only think that did not work mainly because Dano did not have enough time to prepare for both roles and the first brother seems like a rushed performance and lacking substance. Other than that the acting was great. Sydney McCallister who plays Mary Sunday was also spot on her performance. I also think the scene where Daniel stops her and asks if her father is hitting her anymore is great for the "final straws" of his sainhood. And now my friends we embark on what will be discussed for years to come in film schools, the finally. With the first shot of the bowling alley you know something big (in the film and in cinema history) is about to take place. Taking a Kubrick approach and making it bigger, badder, bolder and more improved than anything in his previous works he starts with what will forever be described as the milkshake discussion which leads us to the biggest and greatest finally in recent memory. Daniel Day lets it all go and there is no turning back. This is Daniel Plainview! This is the moment the entire film has been leading up to. He hates people and has no should left. The terror and madness drench out like gutting a cow and we finally see into the mind and heart of a psychopath. Javier Bardem in No Country was crazy and one hell of a psychopath, but Day Lewis took it even further. A moment that is even more powerful than anything Kubrick had done. Anderson re-invented the ending. Taking the final blow and actually having that as the ending. No after math, no clearing up for the audience, no spoon feeding, no apology just "I'm Finished".