A Milkshake of Sound and Fury

Finally, on the eve of the Oscar’s, we saw There Will be Blood. And . . . it was not good. Not at all. A failure, actually.

It had a lot of promise at the beginning, a great and grand idea between the twin millenarian impulses in American culture; rapacious capitalism and fundamentalist Christianity. The two have been paired and opposed for so long, and have a particular connection to the past and future of California, which I personally feel is the cultural core of America. Certainly it’s future.

But this seed of the idea, which is hinted at, is completely sabotaged by an faulty structure, awful editing – 15 years and clearly a great deal of the apotheosis of the story are simply missing – irritating, look at me indications that P.T. Anderson has seen Citizen Kane and a few paintings [there’s a scene of two men hunched over in sleep that is a deliberate recreation of a painting I know well but currently, maddeningly, cannot recover from my memory), and a god-awful performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. Wow, he gives mannerism a bad name. He’ll probably win the Oscar (I did like the clothes, all those chambray work shirts and henleys and high boots).

A lot has been made of the score, by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, music which also doubles as a string orchestra piece. As for as contemporary film music goes, it certainly stands out – it’s both sonorous and experimental and totally unlike the sweeping anodyne pastiches that are the norm. It’s used terribly in the movie though, and that’s clearly the fault of the director. The music has nothing to do with the scenes on the screen. It’s not even in opposition, it exists in an entirely different aesthetic realm. The music that does work, briefly, is the use of a solo cello version of Fratres. Anderson also uses the last movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto – poor Brahms, what did he to do deserve it – in ways that indicate he both has no idea of the content of the music, nor of the story he seems to be trying to tell. Ah, but what do I know, I’m just an unemployed composer . . .

. . . at least I know what this means, now.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

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