May 4, 2016


'The new Terrence Malick film Knight of Cups arrives in cinemas this week. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “the ongoing Terrence Malick project arrives back in theaters, after a protracted spell in the editing room, this week with some new actors in it.” His films have reached such a level of wispy abstraction that they have long since blurred into a single strip of celluloid — a  dance  of  beautiful actors baring their souls in fragments of dialogue and whispered voiceover, while  cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski bobs and weaves through the tall grass like a daydreaming Keats. This one  has  Christian Bale as a screenwriter adrift in the pleasure-dome of modern Hollywood, wandering from  night-club to pool party, frolicking with a series of willowy beauties — Frieda Pinto, Natalie Portman — who whisper  promises of damnation and deliverance  (“Where will I meet you? Which way shall I go? How do I begin?”) while trailing their hands in pools, or gamboling through surf. Bale wears the  grim-set expression of a man beset by sirens, although as critics have been quick to point out: Knight of Cups’s depiction of the Babylon of modern Hollywood both looks and sounds suspiciously like an advert for the fragrance one should wear while braving it. But then the film is only notionally about Hollywood, in the same way that The Thin Red Line was only tangentially about the war in the Pacific. All Malick films are about the same thing — man’s fall from grace, Paradise Lost — a theme he was worked and reworked in six film spanning four decades.  Working “from the inside out,” he shots many of his scenes twice, once with dialogue and once without,  giving him greater freedom in the cutting room, where he can layer up the scenes with voiceover and music, cutting the cord of direct engagement between audience and the drama, to kindle a mesmerised dependence on the opiate of imagery alone.  “He just got bored with his own writing and with our acting and started to see another movie in there,” said star Richard Gere of  Days of Heaven, the 1978 film shot almost entirely at the magic hour of dusk, and which took Malick two years to edit, so exhausting him he didn’t make another film for 20 years. “He was looking for God’s light” said costar Sam Shephard. It is a strong contender for the most beautiful movie ever made.' — from my piece for The New Statesman 

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