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Knight Of Cups (#110 of 7)

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2016 Numbers #25-#50 and Individual Ballots

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Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2016

Paramount Pictures

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2016

From Clayton Dillard’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2016: “Celebrating great art amid the transition to political catastrophe can feel like, to paraphrase the title of poet Ocean Vuong’s recent collection, a moonlit sky with exit wounds. But the phlegm of post-truths shouldn’t get caught in our throats, let alone our eyes and ears, because films from across the globe continue to present a portrait of resilience in the face of international turmoil.” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots.

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.