Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 2006, or earlater

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Paul Thomas Anderson Blogathon: There Will Be Blood, Elizabeth!


The awesome Jeremy Richey of Moon in the Gutter and the Jean Rollin Experience, two of the grooviest and nicest blogs in the world, is--as would befit a nice and groovy writer--hosting a Paul Thomas Anderson blogathon. In sympatico, here's a remodeled version of a Feb. 08 Bright Lights piece comparing Anderson's THERE WILL BE BLOOD to ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE which came out the same year (2007).

Thrilling and underrated is how I find ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE. I’ve read some of the reviews and probably waited this long to see it because of them, but now I’d like to blow those critics back to the Spanish Inquisition-themed S/M dungeons they came from. Yes it’s true the costumes and set design and CGI ships are all a little too fresh off the romance novel cover, and all the colors have been retouched to the point that even Edgar Burne Jones might urge restraint. But coming to it after watching THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY THE EIGHTH I realize that this is how it’s done when depicting the Monarchy: the characters need to stand very still, like tarot cards, while lighting technicians fuss over them as grooms of old.

Call me crazy, but with ELIZABETH, all the over-doing it kind of works, mainly because at the heart of it all is a great actor who nails the royal spirit down to the last nuance while still being “real” and alive with wit and sauce. Cate Blanchett! Charles Laughton brought a sprightliness to Henry, Blanchett brings sultriness and stealth warmth to Elizabeth, and each without ever breaking their painted poses.

What does this have to do with THERE WILL BE BLOOD? Indeed, consider that both Plainview and Elizabeth eschew sexual partners in favor of becoming the stuff of legend. Each gets to smite down with DOGVILLE-style vengeance the rabid dogma of those who would convert them from their own narcissistic perfection, in Elizabeth's case the Spanish Inquisition. In Plainview's case, a pisher of a preacher trying to douse him in the blood of the lamb.

I say this as a decree and a challenge. Cinema rides with Elizabeth and Daniel ride against Joseph Breen and his Censorship Armada!

I love a good whipping as much as anyone, but not from Joseph Breen, who used Catholicism’s mighty power to inflict a state of cinematic censorship so barbaric and stifling as to be akin to the Inquisition itself. In 1934, all the hitherto free flappers and sexually promiscuous lady aviators were tortured into submissiveness, chained in ugly skirts and pregnant to homey stoves, wed to sullen bullies like George Brent. Struggling for a moment’s happiness, they’d have to be killed at the end if they dared have sex out of wedlock with someone flashy. Emphasis on the lock in that last sentence!

At last there are movies like THERE WILL BE BLOOD and ELIZABETH, which are free of censorship enough for their leading characters to skip sex altogether. That is true subversive power, like the eunuchs in Shaw Brothers Hong Kong films. In order to learn the last and most deadly secrets of Kung Fu, you must castrate yourself… quickly, before you chicken out! Then you gain the freedom from desire and the magical power that comes from being beyond sex and gender.


Though neither preacher nor virgin queen, I too have known perfect happiness in platonic love affairs with phantoms; Cate Blanchett as she rides out with long red hair flowing over cool body armor on a white horse is one such phantom. This is spirituality and love united and the flame of cinema shall never die. Now that all the world’s a screen, Cinema is the only place perhaps where perfect love can happen. Oh ye repentant sinner, will you join hands with me in demanding, for the love of god and Elizabeth, Daniel Plainview and freedom from censorship, a DVD release of the 1982 Italian trash classic, HEARTS & ARMOR, starring Tanya Roberts? Amen.

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