Link Reads

*I knew little about it save for the title until today, but Drawn and Quarterly's new Philippe Dupuy collection, Haunted, is now one of my more anticipated books for 2008. Here's two stories, for your sampling pleasure.

I'd only known of Dupuy's solo work from his segments of Maybe Later, the autobiographical book he put out with frequent collaborator Charles Berberian (published in English by D&Q in 2005); his portions didn't nearly as smooth as Berberian's, but they benefited greatly from ferocious candor and an appealingly restless visual style. This new (to English) stuff preserves that dalliance of line, while offering some nicely-focused comedic/philosophic fantasy. Give it a look.

*And while you're at it, look around at the rest of that first linked site, Words Without Borders, an online international literature magazine that's devoting this month to eight English translations of comics from five continents, often with extensive notes included. The visual quality varies a lot, but it's well worth going through. And don't miss Nicole Rudick's revealing interview with the always-excellent Gipi.

*Oh, I saw There Will Be Blood, which I liked a lot. In the context of writer/director P.T. Anderson's small, impressive catalog, it's essentially a counterpoint to the divisive Magnolia, in that its similar focus on interpersonal, often parent-child relationships is maniacally focused on a single lead character instead of legions, and its brushes with the questionably divine reflect a futile, catastrophic longing for an interventionist God, as opposed to the capricious unification of strange weather. My theater was also kind enough to crank Johnny Greenwood's thump 'n yowl score to ear-destroying levels - no mournful indy pop singalongs here!

I'm actually glad I saw No Country for Old Men so close to it; both films have a great respect for landscape, as both a 'character,' and reflective of the actors' inner states. The Coens' work is subtler, and more complicated, in that they tease out the shifty, human frailty of their characters, while implicating the land as an awful constant. Anderson, meanwhile, favors symmetry; Daniel Day-Lewis starts the movie as a slave to the land, falling down holes and spitting on rocks, and ends in it as a rich, mad bastard (sans basket) in a wholly artificial environment. Along the way, religion and capital become intertwined, with the latter ultimately consuming the former.

That ending seems to be the major stumbling block for many viewers; some find it silly and abrupt. It does get silly, but scary-silly -- for all the suspense mechanisms of the Coens' film, they didn't have anything that made me as uneasy as Anderson's last scene -- and I feld Anderson built up to it well, in terms of ramping up the misanthropy of Day-Lewis, facilitated by his increasing wealth. It's no deep thought on the film's part to suggest that money corrupts, but I did appreciate the absurd extremes Anderson pushes his depiction of wealth and amorality toward, ending in bloody ecstasy befitting a man richer than god.

I'm sure it helped that I didn't see Day-Lewis as purely wicked until the very end; I've read some critics going on about the relentless evil of the character, which strikes me as silly and wrongheaded. I always felt that Daniel Plainview was human, if increasingly compromised by greed and loathing; even in the film's early segments he acts primarily out of self-interest, yes, but Anderson and Day-Lewis spend enough time on bits of character shading -- prodding H.W. into understanding his line of work, basking smugly in stopping that little girl's abuse -- that the character at least exhibits signs of adhering to some personal code of ethics. But it's no accident that H.W.'s big character change occurs at the same time as a big money breakthrough. Sliminess leads to callousness, with violence and madness to follow. It's no wonder Sean Collins considers the work horror-influenced - by the end, Day-Lewis is practically playing a Cenobite.

And, as always, there's some nice little touches. Way near the beginning, there's a bit with baby H.W. being dabbed on the brow with oil; that can be read as a baptismal gesture, but in Catholic terms it's also reminiscent of the Ash Wednesday mark, representing a reminder of death and the need for repentance, both traits that will affect the character greatly...