Totally wrote:Gangs of New York is an abject horror show, and his performance in that film is similarly outrageous, however it's believable and functions within the film.
This basically gets at why There Will Be Blood is the only DDL movie I'd have much interest in watching again. Everyone else he's worked with is totally on board with his hammy method thing, and Scorsese, who owes more to Kazan than anyone else, is the pinnacle of that (which is why when it was directed in the right direction in Age of Innocence he was so good). So Gangs is Scorsese flailing, trying his hardest to make a fin de siecle studio disaster which is fundamentally about his belief in this romantic idea of megaproduction and of course part of that is the idea of the mega-performance; it's not that DDL is any more or less believable than he usually is, it's that the belief in the hugeness and ridiculousness of what's around him is as hysterical as his own.
TWBB takes DDL and sticks him in the middle of a Kubrick movie that's all precision and because there's no effort or interest in placing him in a method-realist scenario you end up with the primary fact of his performance being that he's a cartoon, one that's as outsized and effective as the best Chuck Jones. Its line are all that clean. It's the only one of his performance that feels like it's finding anything like a new mode of expression rather than humping the corpse of something that was exhausted by the late 60s. His proportions to the rest of the movie - the extent to which everything is an extension of his internal conflict - are directly related to whatever political thought it has.
I haven't seen TWBB since it was in theaters, and it impressed me the way a movie like that is bound to impress a 20-year-old, so I might feel entirely different now.