In the Dark

Marxist Obsessions

There Will Be Blood
Produced and distributed by Miramax Films
Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson

Many American film reviewers must labor under the spell of Marxist sentimentality.  It’s as though they have never recovered from their undergraduate viewing of Battleship Potemkin (1925), Sergei Eisenstein’s clever but facile Soviet-propaganda film.  Not surprisingly, whenever left-wing politics show up on screen, they grow hopelessly nostalgic.  How else to explain their near-unanimous canonization of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, a botched adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 socialist novel Oil!?  Reading their notices, I began to wonder if the film had left the poor scribblers ideologically befogged.  Most seem to have surrendered their judgment and unashamedly cribbed the language in the studio’s press kit—“epic” being most frequently invoked, followed by comparisons with Citizen Kane and The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

But this film is not an epic.  It has neither the historical scope nor the social depth to qualify for even the loosest sense of the word.  And, unlike Orson Welles’ and John Huston’s peerless films—which, lest anyone think I’m allowing my politics to cloud my aesthetic judgment, are also thoroughly...

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