Punch-Drunk Love

The auctioneer in The Rake’s Progress has Baba the Turk under wraps, he wonders what it is, aloud for the bidders. “Organ? Golden apple tree?”

The hero buys a pig in a poke, the badger game as phone sex. It causes him a great deal of aggravation until he flies to Utah on his pudding-cup frequent-flier miles to stop it. The labyrinth of corridors and stairways where the lady dwells is almost enough to wear away his nice-guy demeanor.

The frankness of the cinema allows a truthful portrait of the villain right out of Chaplin’s nightmares, the accomplice working the scam in James Fargo’s The Enforcer, Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and the studio fan factory.


There Will Be Blood

The show of faith (“one goddamn helluva show,” says Plainview) is swallowed up in actual faith, Plainview’s, the kind that Kierkegaard marveled at.

Between Beckett’s upstairs butler and Henry James’ “bottomless idiocy of the world” Plainview finds silver, then oil, and comes up against The Church of the Third Revelation. Islam, third sex or Close Encounter makes no difference. Eli Sunday says “I am the Third Revelation” in the screenplay, but in the film as well Plainview smites him with the phrase, echoing Avildsen’s The Formula, “We are the Arabs.”

Rimbaud’s “bastard wisdom of the Koran” is in the diary read by a con man posing as Plainview’s brother. Moses in Egypt is the image of Plainview’s remark to his orphaned foundling gone to Mexico as a competitor, “bastard in a basket.”

Helgeland’s The Order may have served as the inspiration with its Third Age of sin-eating and the collapse of a scaffolding at the construction of St. Peter’s. The “drainage” of Little Boston suggests The Two Jakes. Bad criticism of Giant, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, It’s a Wonderful Life and Citizen Kane is rebuked.

The foundling is blown deaf by the gusher, such things are not for infants, it becomes a pillar of fire quenched by dynamite (The Hellfighters). Mann’s Thunder Bay is a little-known masterpiece in the offing to this.