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Terrence Malick (#110 of 113)

Los Cabos International Film Festival Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

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Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

When I left my apartment in Brooklyn for John F. Kennedy International Airport, late at night on November 8th, neither Hilary Rodham Clinton nor Donald J. Trump had yet secured the 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected the 45th president of the United States. By the time I got through security checks and made it to my gate—where TV screens were broadcasting returns from key battleground states—the race was called. Of course, I needn’t hear the result: I saw it on the faces of the people waiting to board, a mix of utter shock and overwhelming concern that the future of our republic would be determined by the most inexperienced, unqualified, and roundly disreputable person to ever hold the highest office.

Review: Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

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Review: Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

IMAX

Review: Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

As with Terrence Malick’s most recent works, To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, the most alien visions in Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience aren’t those of swirling galactic detritus or primitive sea animals, but those from our contemporary, built environment. The Burj Khalifa, viewed from the night sky above Dubai, looks like an astonishing and abstract assemblage of black-and-white panels molded into a spire. An otherwise unremarkable industrial complex seems to have one inhabitant: a little girl in a dark dress playing with a rock. Obsessively manicured suburban lawns are notably absent of life.

Toronto Film Review Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time

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Toronto Film Review: Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time

Broad Green Pictures

Toronto Film Review: Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time

Resembling an expansion of the creation sequence from 2011’s The Tree of Life, Voyage of Time is arguably the fullest expression of the cosmic themes that filmmaker Terrence Malick has explored for the last decade. With the exception of occasional snippets of low-grade, full-frame digital video of contemporary urban poverty, the film follows a linear trajectory from the formation of the solar system through the eventual collapse of our sun. Traveling to the corners of the globe to collect beautiful shots of unmolested nature to stand in for the prehistoric world, Malick also employs various effects to evoke the emergence of life on a planet from the primordial soup, such as drips of paint that seem to flower into tendrils of stardust, or a digitally rendered neural network to chart a map of the human brain.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016 Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

Broad Green Pictures

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016: Knight of Cups and The Little Prince

Santa Barbara, with its picturesque movie palaces mere minutes from the beach, feels like an idyllic remnant of Old Hollywood. Fitting, then, that the centerpiece of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival is Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, a parable about life’s transience posited as a rumination on Hollywood vainglory. Opening the film with a quotation from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Malick makes immediately clear that his relatively plotless narrative about a Hollywood screenwriter’s (Christian Bale) various romantic encounters is, in essence, about humanity’s efforts to regain a lost paradise from which we’ve all been expelled. As allegory, it works on both a literal and metaphorical level, one being meaningless without the other, as it’s precisely that tenuous connection between those two planes that represents Malick’s insistence that only there, in the interstices between the material and the spiritual, does life possess purpose and meaning.

Berlinale 2015 Knight of Cups

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Berlinale 2015: Knight of Cups
Berlinale 2015: Knight of Cups

With Knight of Cups, Terrence Malick achieves the sense of stylistic ossification that many accused his last feature, To the Wonder, of embodying. The difference is that the earlier film was still, in its own rather elemental ways, tied to actual flesh-and-blood characters on screen. In Knights of Cups, by contrast, Malick seems to have finally decided to do away with humans altogether. In some ways, this is the filmmaker’s 8 ½: a feature-length riff on his own creative frustration, with Christian Bale as his directionless stand-in, a screenwriter suffering from spiritual ennui. But then, of course he’s bored and frustrated: He lives in Hollywood, after all, and if works like The Day of the Locust and The Player have shown us anything over the years, what else is Hollywood but a cesspool of decadence and empty hedonism? To this ostensibly mind-blowing insight, Malick adds a fascination with landscapes and architecture that recalls Michelangelo Antonioni’s similar obsessions in the unofficial trilogy of L’Avventura, La Notte, and L’Eclisse—though Emmanuel Lubezki’s roving camerawork and the poetically hushed voiceovers on the soundtrack scream Malick through and through.

True/False Film Festival 2014: Rich Hill, Happy Valley, & Killing Time

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True/False Film Festival 2014: <em>Rich Hill</em>, <em>Happy Valley</em>, & <em>Killing Time</em>
True/False Film Festival 2014: <em>Rich Hill</em>, <em>Happy Valley</em>, & <em>Killing Time</em>

In his essay from the late 1940s entitled “Manners, Morals, and the Novel,” literary theorist Lionel Trilling, a member of the famed New York Intellectuals, stated that “pleasure in cruelty is licensed by moral indignation,” and would go on to claim the middle class as the group of people where such a strange aesthetic relationship often takes hold, designating moral indignation as their “favorite emotion.” Rich Hill exists in this space; detailing the lives of three separate, impoverished teen boys living in Rich Hill, MO, directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos allow their camera to probe and linger in spaces of disorder and grime, but without any discernible purpose other than gaining access to lower-class spaces—another popular pleasure created through middle-class distance. Rich Hill is poverty porn, and this isn’t simply because the film examines poverty, but because it does so with pity as its operative mode, engendering little more than a space for viewers to leave the film acknowledging its sadness.