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|Blood and Guts - Page 3|
Daniel (My Left Foot) Day-Lewis—the Greta Garbo of our day—plays Daniel Plainview, who strikes oil in 1911. He creates a family for himself by finding an orphaned baby in a basket. In the name of his new family, he then sets forth to buy up (or steal) all the oil land in California. As Plainview gets greedier and lonelier, his son is deafened in an explosion, unable to hear his own father's voice.
Plainview's competition and nemesis is the preacher-boy, Paul (Little Miss Sunshine) Dano, who claims to have the power to cast out demons, but proves unable to cure Plainview's son. In his growing isolation, Plainview gets crazier and crazier.
The loud classical music, punctuated with drilling, digging, and pumping noises, is compelling. The photography is deep, stark, and eye-popping. The screenplay is guarded, often as wordless as the deaf son. As we await the blood promised in the title, the film is dominated less by actual violence than by the expectation of it. Anderson understands that the anticipation of bloody business can be as riveting as the reality of it.
While Anderson knows how to ration violence, he hasn't yet learned how to end a movie. (Remember those damned frogs in the otherwise magnificent Magnolia?) His ending abandons realism and substitutes shock and metaphor, leaving us all, on screen and off, with our heads swimming. Still, the film is a searing portrait of a man who always wants more, and can't love as long as there are things not yet under his control. No movie since Citizen Kane has succeeded so well in showing what happens when competition becomes inseparable from rage and paranoia.