Wednesday, February 06, 2008


One week after watching There Will Be Blood, I was still feeling a little sick to my stomach, so I slipped in the Minnelli/Kelly/Lerner mini-epic, Brigadoon, to cleanse the palate. Both films give mythically historic takes on their country of choice: America and Scotland. Yet, shot on sets and sound stages, Brigadoon visually outdoes the former by remembering to leave passion up on the screen instead of TWBB's pathetic pathos.
While There Will Be Blood is obsessed with the outward destruction of community and landscape at the expense of bogarting natural resources, Brigadoon celebrates the inward development of a village living off the land, living with each other, and living through disaster. And the more I think about it, the more the similarities between the two films pop up... yet bouncing away in very disparate directions.

Daniel Plainview stabs the earth for his black gold (it's P.T. Anderson's own nasty, artsy attempt at gore), while Tommy (Kelly) dances up dirt and taps rhythms out on boulders and brush. Anytime discovery is made in There Will Be Blood, tragedy is it's partner: worker deaths, fire, broken limbs, loss of hearing. Anderson is unable to unleash one Eureka! moment without instantaneously taking you out at the knees. Tommy dances through his discoveries and conflicts. What he works for ends up in kisses, flowers, and fresh milk.

"Sentimental poppycock!", you might think. But the richer for it. In fact, watching Brigadoon, and fully buying in with its whacked-out whiff of a premise, does makes you wish P.T. Anderson would have let loose with the entirety of There Will Be Blood like he does in its final 20 minutes. Here, the film feels alive, vigorous, original. It's the type of whip-smart instinctual film making Anderson had last left us with in Punch Drunk Love. Somewhere between then and now, he lost the juice.

Ay, what could've been.... There Will Be Blood : The Musical


stacy said...

Brigadoon is one of my comfort films...I stumbled upon it playing late one night when I was just a wee lassie, still love that movie!

Fox said...

I find that watching Gene Kelly is comforting to me in general.

It's also very pleasing to watch a dance sequence without 64 cuts per minute.