Sunday, March 23, 2008

there will be math

So far I've seen Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood twice in theatres, and on both occasions I noticed a certain dissatisfaction in the audience. Since I enjoyed the movie so much, I'm not sure what those popcorn-chewing people had issue with. Could it be the unorthodox Jonny Greenwood score? No, that was liberating. How about Daniel Day-Lewis' outsized performance? I doubt it, because he inhabited the role so thoroughly that he gave us something entirely outside the current tradition of film acting, and our appreciation of performance has been enlarged because of it. What about those long stretches of methodical, dialogue-free action? Maybe, but those sections told us so much about a way of life that it felt like Anderson had unlocked some latent power in celluloid to convey information.

The answer lies in the title. For a movie that explicitly promises blood, there's not much of the stuff. We see blood only twice in the whole film - once in a sudden ruddy spray that may actually be crude oil, and later in a small puddle oozing across a polished wooden floor.

Nonetheless I think that viewers get more than enough blood from the film. Over the two hours and forty minutes running time, we see four adult males die. Since we witness those moments, and since the experience of watching movies is essentially voyeuristic, I think it's fair to say that we in the audience claim those deaths. The imaginary spoils of onscreen battles go to us, the victors, who have paid ten dollars to sit in the dark and watch a giant rectangle of light on a wall. The question is, exactly how much blood do we get?

The average amount of blood in an adult male body - say, weighing around 150-175 pounds - comes to roughly 5 litres, or 1.32 gallons (This is a conservative estimate; some sources claim up to 5.7 litres). Since this is imaginary blood, we don't need to divide it up between audience members. Therefore we can each claim to have paid ten dollars for twenty litres, or 5.2 gallons, of that old hemoglobin. If you go on cheap night, then you're walking away with gallons of imaginary blood for practically nothing.

If you think of it in terms of gasoline, that's probably enough to move even the most redonkulous gas-guzzling Hummer at least seventy-five miles. And if you're driving a Prius, well then, aren't you special.


blackbird said...


palinode said...

Yes, but I try to be smug in so many directions at once that it confuses the target?

Jennifer said...

I've seen it twice, too, though for different reasons.

You make a good point. Although for me, the dissatisfaction was in the lack of a complete story. There was a black hole in between the beginning and the end that seems to have compelled the ending. But how would I know for sure, since they didn't include it in the film? I left the theater both times talking/grumbling to myself like a moron.

palinode said...

The first time I watched the film, the jump in time from 1911 to 1927 was a bit jarring. The second time, though, the whole thing hung together for me. The ending, which initially came as a shock, seemed foreordained.

lotus07 said...

Speaking of odd titles....what is up with "No Country For Old Men"????

palinode said...

"No Country For Old Men" is the title of the Cormac McCarthy novel on which the film is based. The title is taken from the first line of Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium".

Rebecca said...

I could listen to Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview all day; I love his enunciation and accent. I especially would like to travel around town with him. We could go to the grocery store together, and he could keep track of the items on my list, even if he was in another aisle. I can hear it now:

"You were in need of oatmeal, yes? Do you want steel cut or quick oats?"

palinode said...

Daniel Plainview's grocery list:

goat's milk
goat's milkshake

Rebecca said...

I see him as a fried egg man, too. Nothing in the movie points to this, but anyone with that kind of drive must be eating steak and eggs every morning for breakfast. With a whiskey and goat's milk chaser, of course.

Ozma said...

This reminds me of the time Bart Simpson went to see "Naked Lunch" while skipping school and came out and said something like "I have two problems with that title."

I wonder if the title is keeping me from seeing the movie. If I had the the time to go to a movie. But really, I wonder if the title in some subconscious way deters me. It bothers me, that title.

mathew said...

*surveying the dairy isle, shouting out to daniel who is looking for joint relief in the medicine isle*

M: Daniel - Daniel! Do you need some more goat's milk?

D: Yes, yes I do.

M: Tough shit! They're all out!

D: You're nothing but a bastard from a basket! I will eat you, I'll eat you up!

mathew said...

aisle, isle, i'll

shut it

Theresa said...

Gol' dang, that was a funny comments section.