Terence Malick

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Terence Malick

Postby Goat Boy » 13 Mar 2017, 21:48

He should have just retired after Days of Heaven, huh?
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby toomanyhatz » 13 Mar 2017, 22:01

Not at all. "Knight of Cups" is actually pretty great. Haven't seen "The Tree of Life" yet - I know people's reactions have been mixed, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I'd rather there be more "flawed but ultimately interesting" films than less, even if he's made his last classic. I wouldn't part with the bad Hitchcock or David Lean films, for instance.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Goat Boy » 13 Mar 2017, 22:05

I gave up after Tree of Life.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Sneelock » 13 Mar 2017, 22:07

I've a lot of catching up to do but I love the guy. why use a subatomic microscope when a snapshot would do? that's what makes an artist sometimes.
I think it's fair to call him pretentious & whatever else but the guy has a singular goddam style. I think he's an amazing talent.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby toomanyhatz » 13 Mar 2017, 22:12

The thing I like about him is sometimes he DOES use a subatomic microscope when a snapshot would do. Confounding expectations is kind of his game. I save the description "pretentious" for people trying to be something they're not. Being oblique and/or confounding seems to be a natural part of his style. (Yes, it is more successful at times than others.)
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby PresMuffley » 13 Mar 2017, 22:37

I haven't seen anything of his since Tree of Life only because I haven't watched many movies in the last few years. Last thing I saw in its entirety: Karate Kid Part III this past New Year's with my best friend and his kids. Song to Song looks cool. Rooney Mara as a sexy blonde with a bob. Count me in.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Mar 2017, 02:12

The greatest living director.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby driftin » 14 Mar 2017, 04:12

Badlands and Days of Heaven are amongst my all-time favourite films. The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life are one step below that. Knight of Cups and To the Wonder are decent but I doubt I'll ever watch them again. His quality's certainly dipping. It seems to be proportionate to how quickly he puts films out.

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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Mar 2017, 04:49

I don't think it makes much sense to look at the difference between Malick's 70s work and his late career resurgence as a drop-off in quality.

Those first two films were more satisfying because they operated more within the range of established film narrative. But when he returned to directing in the late 90s, he made less concessions to convention.

I have no problem with someone not liking the later films as much as Badlands and Days of Heaven - but the newer ones aren't inferior.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Goat Boy » 14 Mar 2017, 10:32

driftin wrote:Badlands and Days of Heaven are amongst my all-time favourite films. The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life are one step below that. Knight of Cups and To the Wonder are decent but I doubt I'll ever watch them again. His quality's certainly dipping. It seems to be proportionate to how quickly he puts films out.


I really thought he disappeared up his own arse with the Tree of Life. I think the fundamental problem is that his spiritual beliefs don't tally with mine so the pantheistic element of it seemed rather silly. Of course I'm sure some, conversely, find this element moving.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby PresMuffley » 14 Mar 2017, 11:51

Davey the Fat Boy wrote:Those first two films were more satisfying because they operated more within the range of established film narrative. But when he returned to directing in the late 90s, he made less concessions to convention.


Song to Song is supposed to have a more traditional narrative.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 14 Mar 2017, 15:43

PresMuffley wrote:
Davey the Fat Boy wrote:Those first two films were more satisfying because they operated more within the range of established film narrative. But when he returned to directing in the late 90s, he made less concessions to convention.


Song to Song is supposed to have a more traditional narrative.


Maybe. I've already heard some of my friends in the Austin music scene who have seen it complaining that it isn't a very realistic depiction of Austin. I find that funny. Beyond that...the usual complaints about Malick.

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Re: Terence Malick

Postby PresMuffley » 14 Mar 2017, 15:54

If I want a realistic look at Austin, I'll go there - with no expectations of seeing Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara & Patti Smith.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Matt Wilson » 14 Mar 2017, 17:28

Love him, and not just the first two either. Thin Red Line is almost as good as Badlands and Days of Heaven. The New World is beautiful to look at (they all are, really) and I had no trouble with Tree of Life. He's really a director for blu rays on huge TV screens. Kinda like Kubrick.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby toomanyhatz » 14 Mar 2017, 17:32

Goat Boy wrote:
driftin wrote:Badlands and Days of Heaven are amongst my all-time favourite films. The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life are one step below that. Knight of Cups and To the Wonder are decent but I doubt I'll ever watch them again. His quality's certainly dipping. It seems to be proportionate to how quickly he puts films out.


I really thought he disappeared up his own arse with the Tree of Life. I think the fundamental problem is that his spiritual beliefs don't tally with mine so the pantheistic element of it seemed rather silly. Of course I'm sure some, conversely, find this element moving.


I'm not sure he's tied to pantheism. He certainly uses it, but "Knight of Cups," for example (which used tarot cards for a motif) was all over the map spiritually. What works for me is that he presents a variety of images and lets the watcher attach themselves to what they may. Joseph Campbell fan that I am, that appeals greatly to me.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 17 Mar 2017, 21:34

toomanyhatz wrote:
Goat Boy wrote:
I really thought he disappeared up his own arse with the Tree of Life. I think the fundamental problem is that his spiritual beliefs don't tally with mine so the pantheistic element of it seemed rather silly. Of course I'm sure some, conversely, find this element moving.


I'm not sure he's tied to pantheism. He certainly uses it, but "Knight of Cups," for example (which used tarot cards for a motif) was all over the map spiritually. What works for me is that he presents a variety of images and lets the watcher attach themselves to what they may. Joseph Campbell fan that I am, that appeals greatly to me.


I'm not even sure how pantheistic Tree of Life is. There is so much overt biblical imagery in the film. In some ways it seems like an attempt to square the scriptural with a more pantheistic view (all while voicing struggle, doubt and disbelief at every turn).

Ultimately I just don't get the notion of needing to share the beliefs of the director to be moved by a film. I'm no Christian, but gospel music moves me. Watching human beings wrestle with the big question is always interesting to me.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby algroth » 17 Mar 2017, 22:34

I also think The Tree of Life is a more related at its core with matters of psychology and existentialism than religion or faith per se, though these obviously have their part in it too. This is the review I wrote a few years ago about it...

It's probably no rarity in the realm of art (and cinema specifically) to find a work or its maker aiming for grand, expansive subjects - countless of films have touched upon death, life, religion, the cosmos, evolution, etc., yet the scale of such projects has gone from the smallest of student and amateur films to the most expensive blockbusters one may think of. However, few projects, regardless of notoriety, budget, or else, have led to the project itself being equally monumental, ambitious and wide-scoped as said themes and subjects could suggest. It is only natural, then, that when one does finally come along it'll be inevitably mythified and fall prey to all sorts of hyperbole both for and against it. Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is one such event, a film which details the life of its protagonist from the day he's concieved till he is a grown adult lost in the uncertainties of what he's grown to be, what he's achieved and the enduring duality of the "ways of life" embodied by his two parents, all the while long sequences detail the creation of the universe, the birth of life, the evolution of the species and the origins of the aformentioned "ways of life", which Malick tentatively names as "nature" and "grace".

Having heard a lot about the film before I first went in, I was expecting an intellectual assault, an almost deliberately obtuse and fragmented experience which would place a lot more importance upon its alleged philosophy than what it may have actually done in the end. It's probably of utmost importance to underline that the film is by all means an intimidating experience, and not just in its scope and ambition - it truly has to be one of the most vertiginous films I've seen. The great predominance of very angular lenses capturing extreme close-ups and different structures which already naturally offer a lot of hard perspective (say, narrow attics, skyscrapers, glass pyramids, pirouetting planes and the likes), all accompanied with a stunning selection of classical orchestral works by the likes of Berlioz, Gorecki, Brahms, Preisner and more, seems to almost intentionally establish the audience as a speck of dust in the grand scheme the film is encompassing. It is no surprise that may people were unwilling to comment on the film right after they had finished it, claiming they needed another viewing to truly be able to process what had just happened. It's the film's sheer size that might invite to believe that many of the concepts and the ideas which are told are a lot more complex and profound than they may actually be. It is possible, in my view, that the film's real concerns lie outside any proposed intellectual breakdown of Malick's great cosmic vision and instead that the film's main concerns lie in the depiction of the many childhood memories of the protagonist, and not so much the ideas proposed in these sequences but the effect and the vivid capture of these moments, which many of us may or may not compare to our very own. For me, the film's main strength was not a discoursive one instead of a sensorial one, of the effect and the emotions that Malick managed to convey within me, of the nostalgic trip which at many moments I felt to be my own as well. Possibly the most vivid moments occur during the acts of juvenile transgression, barging into a stranger's house, stealing, harming animals and relatives as an almost ritualistic process with which to prove our own free will and independence to ourselves, even though at the back of our heads we were regretting what we had just done. The instant regret, the trial-and-error of the ways the protagonist acts in this crucial gateway moment of his life is what strikes me the most as the heart of what Malick is perhaps proposing here.

In his own review, Mark Kermode made a very interesting point when he said that it was not so much the conclusions and interpretations the film offers that are of utmost importance but the matter of when these questions arise, when do we start to ask ourselves about the nature of the universe and the meaning of our existence. It is no surprise that the film spends a lot of its time verbally asking questions, not just about a universal concept of life and death much in the way of what happens through the sequences involving the creation of the world and the likes, but also of who we are, of the nature of goodness, of our reason of existence and, later, our legacy in this world and our doubts on our own course of action. In many ways, what Malick is doing here is telling the process by which a child comes to adulthood, and to the world - in the realm of psychology, one of the people who have written the most about this aspect is Erik Erikson, establishing a scheme through which a person passes through life, divided into eight stages, each belonging to a specific age range, represented by an overarching crisis - it is no coincidence that all of the questions Erikson asks in this scheme are exactly the questions Malick asks directly onscreen, nor is it a coincidence that the moment Malick chooses to focus upon is exactly the age in which, by Erikson's rule, a person starts gradually replacing his crisis about competence (see the protagonist's envy toward his brother's musical skills, or the constant conflict between what he can do and what is expected of him) for that of identity and the fidelity of self. This is probably why I also found the film to be fairly linear, resonant and not as inaccessible and disjointed as I heard so many claim, because the film was constantly driven by a very human conflict, a process, all of which was fascinating to see. In my opinion, one of the elements that feels the most contrived in this film (which, by the way, is full of contrivances and flaws in general, but I'll get to that soon), is the clear duality established by the parents, the two playing their roles as embodiments of both "ways of life" too closely for comfort, but in a way it's this obvious duality that is necessary in order to externalize the conflicting visions that the protagonist is torn apart by.

As I mentioned above, the film is hardly perfect. Indeed, much of the overt imagery seems to fall flat on its face - we already mentioned the parents' roles in Malick's universal philosophy, and there are some crickety moments like a shot where we suddenly see the mother floating about, and a scene in the last act in which we see her offering her child to God - in a way, it's a necessary moment to understand that she's overcome her grief, but the manner in which it is shot, the excessivle over-exposure, the girl braiding her hair on the back, all seems too ostentatious and narcissistic (two flaws this film is definitely guilty of). The worst of these moments, however, is the one scene involving the birth of morality amongst dinosaurs, when one looks down upon its helpless prey and decides to be merciful and not kill it. It's a horribly misguided sequence made all the more jarring by how artificial it looks in a film which achieves most of its staggering form through plain brilliant photography (this is, in purely visual terms, not only Malick's but also cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki's crowning achievement hands down). The other major complaint in my opinion has to do with the philosophy Malick presents to us, which occurs to me as extremely naive and made all the worse through dodgy writing and poor delivery (STOP WHISPERING ALREADY). It's once I got past the silliness involved in the more reflexive spoken moments that I could truly appreciate what the visuals told me (and, man, can they speak by themselves!).

There's one more point to be made regarding this story and a possible need for Malick to tell it. As some might know, Terrence Malick lost a brother at the age the protagonist loses his own - Malick's brother was studying classical guitar in Barcelona at the time of his death. It is no secret that this film is inspired in Malick's own childhood experiences, but what did take me by surprise was how much of it played like an autobiography of sorts. What Malick seems to hint throughout is that, actually, the artistic genius in his family, the true talent had always been his brother, and that at some point as a child he was envious of this talent as well. The following matter is only hinted at in the film, and not put up in the screen as directly as some other elements which may have in the end become more predominant and lively in my mind, but there is also a sense that maybe Malick might have taken up filmmaking due to his brother's death, due to a sense of guilt generated by this envy and a sense of unfulfillment due to his brother's untimely death, an artistic body of work which he felt obliged to complete. The last question Erikson proposes that we ask ourselves in our lives is the matter of having lived an accomplished life, of having left a legacy behind, and something we can be proud of, and I wonder if this is not precisely the question Malick is now making to himself through this film, through reliving so many of these experiences and reassessing the way in which he dealt with every step in life, and whether his debt is now complete. Or perhaps I'm also guilty of over-analyzing this film.

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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 17 Mar 2017, 23:30

That's a pretty thoughtful review Algroth. I'd argue that Erickson's psychology frame might actually be more narrow than it has to be. I tend to think Malick is actually pretty disinterested in our individual psychologies...but more fascinated with that species-wide view of our collective patterns of growth.

This film is interesting because it really seeks to reconcile to micro to the macro (and vice versa). The fact that he uses his own autobiography to stand in for the whole idea of biography itself is a puzzle in and of itself.

I hate discussing a film like Tree in terms of "flaws" - as if an unflawed version was possible. I wouldn't touch a hair on its head.
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Re: Terence Malick

Postby algroth » 18 Mar 2017, 02:17

Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "flaw" in retrospect, but my intention was to refer more to the things that didn't work with me, or that caused in me a negative reaction. I agree that you cannot reach an unflawed or perfect film, but my personal experience while watching it was not evenly positive and that is what the criticisms were meant to reflect.

Anyhow, I brought it up because I think it's the kind of film that allows itself to be viewed from several angles beyond the religious/spiritual one, and I think my review above was a decent example of one of those different facets to it.

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Re: Terence Malick

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 21 Mar 2017, 15:41

A good film is it's own little world, so I get having moments stick out that feel like they pull you out of that world. That said, sometimes that can be a strategy on the part of the filmmaker. In the case of Jessica Chastain floating, I think it clearly is. Some of the other things you mentioned might have been less intentional (though I didn't really share your feelings on those moments, I must say).

I also want to add that I watched the director's cut of The New World on Sunday and it reminded me how important it is to see the best cut possible of his films. A lot of times the theatrical version is compromised by the need to make distributors and theater chains to accept it.
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