Over the weekend I flew out to New York to catch one of two screenings of one of my favorite movies, There Will Be Blood. What made this event special was that Jonny Greenwood, who wrote the score to the film, would be performing it live as the movie played with the Wordless Music Orchestra. It took place at United Palace Theatre, which was a treat in itself, one of the great movie palaces that has been kept in pristine condition over the years. It had been a couple years since I last watched PT Anderson’s masterpiece, and this was my first time seeing it on a big screen since opening night in 2007. Despite the long running time and already knowing everything that was going to happen, the film still feels electric to me.
Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing, of course, but there are other things about the movie that get overlooked when people talk about it. Robert Elswit’s cinematography is probably the best I’ve seen in a movie over the last 20 years or so. Every shot is like a painting I would be honored to hang in my home. Paul Dano…poor Paul Dano. He’s quietly crafted a really great career, playing roles that I couldn’t see anyone else pulling off. It all began here, I think. His portrayal of Eli Sunday is absolutely jaw-dropping. I know that Javier Bardem was great in No Country For Old Men, but Dano mops the floor with him in my opinion. Anyone with the ability to go head-to-head with Day-Lewis’s Daniel Plainview and not look like a fool is definitely doing something right.
The live-score aspect was pretty great. The orchestra was much larger than I would have thought. Greenwood himself was in the middle playing the ondes martenot, surrounded by more than 50 other musicians. The standout was the violin section, and the lead violinist in particular. The swells of strings were particularly haunting, reminding me of some of Michael Giacchino’s music for the show “Lost.”
Conducted by Ryan McAdams, the score became an even bigger part of the film than it was previously. Scenes like the big oil derrick explosion where H.W. Plainview gets injured felt even more chaotic and frenzied. And the times when there was no music, which if you’ve seen the film know come pretty often, feel heightened by the silence beneath them.
This was my first time going to a film with an orchestra playing the music live, and I would gladly go again.