I’ve never been entirely satisfied by P.T. Anderson’s movies. Yes, I admired them from a technical standpoint — who couldn’t — but I was always left very cold by them. For instance, with Boogie Nights, I felt as if I were watching an especially masterful simulacrum of a Robert Altman movie I’d enjoy much more, a sort of outsized-phallus version of Short Cuts. That’s why I’d always stayed away from There Will Be Blood, despite its praise. That’s fine — sometimes people enjoy different things, and there are plenty of other movies to occupy my time with.
However, I saw the teaser for The Master and felt outright excitement. A Metafilter discussion* prompted by said teaser gave the the prompting I needed to go give There Will Be Blood a fair shot, and I’m very glad I did. It’s a movie that shows a director who has utter confidence in his material, stripping away the superfluous tics that always distracted me and letting an actor and a script tell that story, directly and clearly**.
I found myself thinking and reconsidering bits of the film since I’ve seen it, and I think a great deal of that enjoyment and enchantment comes from the fact I watched it in a relative vacuum, five years after everyone had talked it up so much. Frankly, it’s the way I prefer to watch/read/listen to things — free of the marketing*** and fannish push that can cause me to prejudge material****.
I’m now seriously considering giving Anderson another shot with a bit more perspective on his material. Maybe without someone sobbing and telling me how much Magnolia changed their lives, I’ll be able to buy into it a bit more.
* Right now, Benjamin Birdie is screaming at me through his monitor, telling me that he told me to see the movie a dozen dozen times. The problem is that sometimes clinical detachment from a thing is more of an impetus for me than breathless enthusiasm.
** That said, maybe Anderson’s doing Malick with The Master — after all, There Will be Blood feels very Days of Heaven, isn’t it?
*** Yes, I do know what I do for a living, thank you.
**** You should see me hiding from Prometheus‘s marketing push; it’s comical how quickly I will screech and close a link when I’m blindly fed something.