Sunday, January 06, 2008

Giant "100 Times Better Than I Remembered"

I had the pleasure of attending a DGA event for Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood the other night. I was just as mesmerized the second time through this mysteriously potent monster and --oops, I didn't take notes. But a couple of things from the interview afterwards stuck with me.


Martin Scorsese was the interviewer, Paul Thomas Anderson the interviewee. Their conversation vacillated from working with Daniel Day-Lewis (both seemed rather awed by him and from the examples cited he sounds more than a little bit like a co-director on his films rather than just an actor) to the difficulties of location shooting and the complex tasks of cinematography, scoring and editing. Scorsese was such a fine choice to interview Anderson and he was well prepared with fascinating questions and anecdotes of his own. It was also amusing to see an old school filmmaking giant paired with a still rising young auteur, both coasts represented. NY: Scorsese; LA: Anderson. One of the draws for Anderson to make There Will Be Blood was that the history of California (his home) has always fascinated him.

They talked influences as artists often do. Robert Altman, to whom There Will Be Blood is dedicated, was cited (of course) and Anderson talked about his understudy gig on A Prairie Home Companion. Though he was there for insurance purposes, Altman too frail during filming to be properly insured, the young director didn't get to do anything but watch. During the conversation they name checked so many films I lost track but I remember hearing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre mentioned a few times and they spent some time discussing the great epic Giant (1956) which is also about oil men.


P.T. said that he rewatched Giant (1956) before filming and found it "a hundred times better" than he had remembered it being though he'd always liked it. I wanted to pop Giant in the DVD player right then and there. It's been ages since I've seen it, too. During the recent screening Anderson found himself most impressed by Rock Hudson. Liz Taylor was also praised but he revealed that he had, as a younger film fanatic, always been firmly focused on James Dean whenever he watched it.

The best movies always do that though, don't they? They shift and shape change, growing right along with us. The best ones reveal themselves anew whenever we pop in for a visit.

17 comments:

daveylow said...

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. botched the DVD transfer for Giant. It's not awful but it should be much better. I can totally see how a movie like Giant would influence Anderson's work on There Will Be Blood.

I wish someone had recorded this interview between Scorsese and Anderson. Does this mean Scorsese is campaigning for Anderson?

NATHANIEL R said...

they did have cameras there at the event but i'm not sure if the footage is available anywhere yet.

the mexican said...

I added that to my netflix que

E Dot said...

hey nathaniel, on a completely different note, what do you think this 'Juno' surge at the box office means for its Oscar chances??

Michael said...

PTA and Scorsese in the same room! Now you must know what heaven feels like Nat ;-)

Aaron said...

Did Anderson mention Jean-Pierre Melville at all? Blood reminded me a lot of his work.

Nick Davis said...

I lucked out and saw Giant for the first time in 35mm about two years ago, and I thought it was great. I posted about it at Cinemarati, but like all the other posts in that much-missed venue, it went the way of the... uh... California tumbleweed? Rolled away? Into some kind of oblivion? (I shouldn't build toward metaphors that I don't even understand, about places I've barely visited.)

Brian said...

Don't remind me! I'm still sad about the disappearance of all that terrific writing and discussion. Before the place shut up shop I rescued the texts of my own posts but not the images or the comments. I keep thinking I might republish some of them somewhere for archival purposes, but I never find the motivation.

to digress from topic even further, I finally listened to that week-old Radio Allegro podcast on the year in movies, and though I missed Nathaniel's presence in the discussion, I enjoyed hearing your take on the year, Nick.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I really loved Giant's first two acts, but when James Dean becomes an alcoholic and the three main cast members start wearing ridiculous old age make-up it got a bit silly.

Taylor and Hudson are amazing though.

NATHANIEL R said...

yeah, i miss those conversations too. i wish i'd copied and pasted them.

i used to find them so useful in writing my reviews. i'd be arguing about something with someone and then i'd be like um.... what i just said is going in my review! i'm brilliant! (kidding)

oh and as to the podcast. i missed being part of it too but i LAUNCHED MY OWN! i'll still guest with radio allegro but i was busy chatting up Marisa Tomei (xoxoxo -she's awesome)

The Australian (you know, Lurhman-hating...) said...

Did PTA talk about Kubrick at all as an influence on THERE WILL BE BLOOD?

Arabella said...

I can't say I loved Giant but it was well acted (generally) and just a stunning looking film. Gorgeous scenery and beautiful leads, until the third act. Was old age makeup just the way that movies handled large shifts of time in the story back then? Maybe that's the price you pay for casting James Dean, Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson in the same movie: even if they could have found older lookalike actors, the star power is just diminished too greatly for the audience not to cry foul.

This might sound weird, but the relationship between the Dean/Taylor/Hudson characters reminded me of the Jack/Rose/Cal triangle in Titanic, but more with nuanced writing and better chemistry among the players. It's the rebellious poor guy, the beautiful, refined yet progressive society girl and the handsome wealthy businessman prone to bouts of cruelty. If that movie version of the doomed oceanliner had been made back then (or if a youthful Liz and the rest could have somehow been transported to the late 1990s), they are exactly who would have cast in those roles and the movie would have been an even bigger sensation, I'm convinced. We'll never know, of course, but don't you love fantasy casting?

NATHANIEL R said...

kubrick was mentioned yet but to my recollection it was only in passing... they didn't dwell on him

oh and arabella... i'd never imagined the titanic connection but i see it now. i know it's a really poor cliche that they don't make them like they use to but ROCK HUDSON, LIZ, and DEAN all in the same film: you almost have to wear sunglasses it's so blazing with starlight.

Nedim said...

is there a video of this... i would loove to see it :P

Anonymous said...

To daveylow: If you're willing to purchase the 3-DVD James Dean collection, the quality of the Giant's DVD-transfer is strangely better.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, Scorsese and PTA together, talking about TWBB and their influences and experiences - did anyone ever find video of this???

Chus said...

This is what I think: Paul Thomas Anderson