Let me just say something right here: I am a total puss.
I rented Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood from the library about a week ago, which was about the same time I started a new job, so the stress had kind of put me out of the mood to watch something I thought would make me even more sour.
I guess I’m also a total idiot.
I really love the final scene as much as anyone and can see why it’s the most-remembered part of the whole film (which I’m sure is “haha he said milkshake”), but that opening was something else entirely, something I might call one of my favorite little bits of cinema. It’s all so iconic. Plainview’s fall, his lying satisfied on the wood floor, his oil-drenched hand in the air like it’s covered in blood, the oil “baptism” of his son. That’s real filmmaking there, telling a story with pictures and without pantomime. How many minutes is it until anyone says a word?
TWBB might be a better deconstruction of the Western genre than Unforgiven. Maybe that’s not fair to Unforgiven, really, since Unforgiven is a dismissal of romantic (or even less-romantic by way of Leone and Peckinpah) westerns where killing is constant and people ride off into the sunset on horses. TWBB is a bit more pure, in a way, since it flat-out rejects a lot of surface elements of a typical western. It takes place in the west, sure, and there are guns in it, but the movie isn’t about guns or the west. It’s a ground-up take on “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us,” Except at the end there’s no gunfight, no real dusty street confrontation. Just a slow, torturous destruction of two souls that, for all intents and purposes, didn’t have much farther to fall anyway.
“I’m finished.” That’s how you end a movie.