Terrence Malick Film-By Film Thread

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by masswriter, Feb 9, 2016.

  1. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    That's a essentially a Nicholas Cage film. Watched that one a few times.
    The Thin Red Line encapsulate's a you are there quality to it.
  2. GodShifter

    GodShifter Son of the Morning Star®

    Dallas, TX, USA
    Obviously I was joking.

    I didn't particularly enjoy Windtalkers to be honest. It was way over the top in terms of realism and the mysticism was absurd. Outside of the HBO's "The Pacific", I've yet to see a better, or more realistic, depiction of the battle in the Pacific than "The Thin Red Line".
  3. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Hampshire
    I bought a region-free blu-ray player, and so that I am able to watch the first cut screened to critics (150 minutes) and then the wide-release cut (135 minutes), and later the extended cut (172 minutes).
  4. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Hampshire
    This article originally appeared in Sight and Sound 44:2:82-83, Spring 1975. Copyright Sight and Sound.

    Interviewing Terry Malick,producer-writer-director of Badlands, turned out, like his film, to be full of idiosyncratic surprises. My prepared list of questions went by the wayside as Malick talked with passion, conviction and sometimes anger about his film. Acknowledging that he "couldn't have asked for more" in terms of critical acceptance, he also indicated that the actual filming was painful. Working in the dead heat of the 1972 summer, with a non-union crew and little money ($300,000, excluding some deferments to labs and actors), Malick encountered all sorts of problems, from difficulties over finance to the destruction of all the cameras during a fire sequence. Eventually, upon completion, Warners bought Badlands for just under a million dollars. It might turn in a decent profit for them.

    The son of an oil company executive, Malick grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. He went to Harvard and later to Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. Philosophy was his course of study, but he never completed his thesis--in fact, his topic wasn't even acceptable to his Senior Tutor, Gilbert Ryle. Summer jobs took him from the wheat harvests in America and Canada, to work in oilfields and riving a cement mixer in a railyard, to journalistic endeavours for Life, Newsweek and the New Yorker. He was sent to Bolivia to observe the trial of Regis Debray; Che Guevara was killed the day after his arrival. In 1968, he was appointed a lecturer in philosophy for one year at MIT.

    "I was not a good teacher; I didn't have the sort of edge one should have on the students, so I decided to do something else. I'd always liked movies in a kind of naive way. They seemed no less improbable a career than anything else. I came to Los Angeles in the fall of 1969 to study at the AFI; I made a short called Lanton Mills. I found the AFI very helpful; it's a marvellous place. My wife was going to law school and I was working for a time as a rewrite man-two days on Drive, He Said, five weeks on the predecessor to Dirty Harry at a time when Brando was going to do it with Irving Kershner directing. Then we all got fired by Warners; the project went to Clint Eastwood. I rewrote Pocket Money and Deadhead Miles. I got this work because of a phenomenal agent, Mike Medavoy.

    "At the end of my second year here, I began work on Badlands. I wrote and, at the same time, developed a kind of sales kit with slides and video tape of actors, all with a view to presenting investors with something that would look ready to shoot. To my surprise, they didn't pay too much attention to it; they invested on faith. I raised about half the money and Edward Pressman (the executive producer) the other half. We started in July of 1972.

    "The critics talked about influences on the picture and in most cases referred to films I had never seen. My influences were books like The Hardy Boys, Swiss Family Robinson, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn--all involving an innocent in a drama over his or her head. I didn't actually think about those books before I did the script, but it's obvious to me now. Nancy Drew, the children's story child detective--I did think about her.

    "There is some humour in the picture, I believe. Not jokes. It lies in Holly's mis-estimation of her audience, of what they will be interested in or ready to believe. (She seems at time to think of her narration as like what you get in audio-visual courses in high school.) When they're crossing the badlands, instead of telling us what's going on between Kit and herself, or anything of what we'd like and have to know, she describes what they ate and what it tasted like, as though we might be planning a similar trip and appreciate her experience, this way.

    "She's a typical Southern girl in her desire to help, to give hard fact; not to dwell upon herself, which to her would be unseemly, but always to keep in mind the needs of others. She wants to come off in the best possible light, but she's scrupulous enough to take responsibility where in any way she might have contributed."

    I suggest to Malick that the film has been criticised for patronising Holly and her milieu. "That's foolishness. I grew up around people like Kit and Holly. I see no gulf between them and myself. One of the things the actors and I used to talk about was never stepping outside the characters and winking at the audience, never getting off the hook. If you keep your hands off the characters you open yourself to charges like that; at least you have no defence against them. What I find patronising is people not leaving the characters alone, stacking the deck for them, not respecting their integrity, their difference.

    "Holly's Southernness is essential to taking her right. She isn't indifferent about her father's death.
    (line missing)
    tears, but she wouldn't think of telling you about it. It would not be proper. You should always feel there are large parts of her experience she's not including because she has a strong, if misplaced, sense of propriety. You might well wonder how anyone going through what she does could be at all concerned with proprieties. But she is. And her kind of cliché didn't begin with pulp magazines, as some critics have suggested. It exists in Nancy Drew and Tom Sawyer. It's not the mark of a diminished, pulp-fed mind, I'm trying to say, but of the 'innocent abroad.' When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in cliches. That doesn't make them laughable; it's something tender about them. As though in struggling to reach what's most personal about them they could only come up with what's most public.

    "Holly is in a way the more important character; at least you get a glimpse of what she's like. And I liked women characters better than men; they're more open to things around them, more demonstrative. Kit, on the other hand, is a closed book, not a rare trait in people who have tasted more than their share of bitterness in life. The movies have kept up a myth that suffering makes you deep. It inclines you to say deep things. It builds character and is generally healthful. It teaches you lessons you never forget. People who've suffered go around in movies with long, thoughtful faces, as though everything had caved in just yesterday. It's not that way in real life, though, not always. Suffering can make you shallow and just the opposite of vulnerable, dense. It's had this kind of effect on Kit.

    "Kit doesn't see himself as anything sad or pitiable, but as a subject of incredible interest, to himself and to future generations. Like Holly, like a child, he can only really believe in what's going on inside him. Death, other people's feelings, the consequences of his actions-they're all sort of abstract for him. He thinks of himself as a successor to James Dean-a Rebel without a Cause-when in reality he's more like an Eisenhower conservative. 'Consider the minority opinion,' he says into the rich man's tape recorder, 'but try to get along with the majority opinion once it's accepted.' He doesn't really believe any of this, but he envies the people who do, who can. He wants to be like them, like the rich man he locks in the closet, the only man he doesn't kill, the only man he sympathises with, and the one least in need of sympathy. It's not infrequently the people at the bottom who most vigorously defend the very rules that put and keep them there.

    "And there's something about growing up in the Midwest. There's no check on you. People imagine it's the kind of place where your behaviour is under constant observation, where you really have to toe the line. They got that idea from Sinclair Lewis. But people can really get ignored there and fall into bad soil. Kit did, and he grew up like a big poisonous weed.

    "I don't think he's a character peculiar to his time. I tried to keep the 1950s to a bare minimum. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything. I wanted the picture to set up like a fairy tale, outside time, like Treasure Island. I hoped this owuld, among other htings, take a little of the sharpness out of the violence but still keep its dreamy quality. Children's books are full of violence. Long John Silver slits the throats of the faithful crew. Kit and Holly even think of themselves as living in a fairy tale. Holly says, "Sometimes I wished I could fall asleep and be taken off to some magical land, but this never happened." But she enough believes there is such a place that she must confess to you she never got there."
  5. HBO's The Pacific was horribly inaccurate, though, compared to it's European Theater of Operation counterpart, Band of Brothers. The filmmakers of The Pacific had every opportunity to consult men who were actually there, like they had done with Band of Brothers, but they chose not to. Instead, they simply opted to invite some older Marines to the sets. They really blew it with that one.

    But yeah, The Thin Red Line is amazing. Simply amazing. Then again, I don't think I dislike any of Malick's films, although Days of Heaven gets a bit tedious.
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  6. guidedbyvoices

    guidedbyvoices Diver Dan

    Alpine, TX
    I feel that way with other filmmakers too with a distinct style , like Wes Anderson. They may not be my thing, but I'm glad someone is out there with a vision of what they want and doing it.
  7. Bryan

    Bryan Starman Jr.

    Berkeley, CA
    Love this story from Martin Sheen about the production of Badlands:

    "[Producer] Lou Stroller made some comment about Mrs. Malick, and Terry was not having it, and beat the hell out of him. In true Texas style—he was so Texas. Didn’t even hesitate, just started swinging. They were down like two buffalo—they were big guys—and they were on the ground, rolling around, and Terry just whupped him. Oh, I acted outraged—'What a breakdown of discipline, this fighting on the set!'—but I couldn’t have been prouder of him. Can you imagine? If more directors would beat up their producers, we’d have a lot more artistic freedom."

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  8. johnnyyen

    johnnyyen Forum Resident

    Watching The Revenant recently, I couldn't help but notice the influence of Malik on the film, particularly The New World and The Thin Red Line. I've yet to see Knight Of Cups, as it has yet to have a UK release, but have seen, and own, everything else, aside from Lanton Mills of course, and consider Malik one of the greats of cinema.

    Which book on Malik did you edit masswriter?
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  9. htom

    htom Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    There's also the DP work of Emmanuel Lubezki in common for the last decade or so, though I'd set his work with Alfonso Cuarón as not being the same.
  10. ermylaw

    ermylaw Forum Resident

    Kansas City
    The Blu-ray is available from Amazon.de right now. When you put the disc in, the first menu gives you an option for UK or Germany. It is an English-friendly release that is stellar in quality. So that's an option for you, if you want to go ahead and pick it up.
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  11. Bryan

    Bryan Starman Jr.

    Berkeley, CA
    Lubezki was DP for The New World, but not The Thin Red Line, which was John Toll.
  12. johnnyyen

    johnnyyen Forum Resident

    Thanks for pointing this out. Looking at the release dates on imdb, it had a European release in September/October 2015, although no UK release. In fact, there's no UK release scheduled, and the US release is in April 2016. I wonder why the release dates are spread out over several months?
  13. agentalbert

    agentalbert Forum Resident

    San Antonio, TX
    I'm with you there. That's the dog of his catalog, imo. Can't say I hated it, but it didn't do a thing for me. I think its gonna air on TCM later this week, so I might give it another shot.

    Definitely, I noticed that too.

    I still need to see Knight Of Cups. I don't believe it was ever shown in my area.
  14. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    He tries to do in Knight of Cups what he does in Tree of Life, but the story of a lone screenwriter doesn't have the same mythic overtones and gravitas of the story of a family in Tree of Life, nor the same inherent universality of that story. King of Cups therefore feels thinner focusing on one person's musing, and almost too selfishly baleful (no pun intended, Christian Bale stars). In Tree of Life, every scene was the distillation of a moment of life, in King of Cups, it's a running monologue that feels indulgent. I think Tree of Life is the most perfect incarnation of Malick's style (it also worked in The New World, but I felt that film was a little slow and still hampered by "story.' I loved the pure expressionism in Tree of Life) I need to see the shorter version of The New World.
  15. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    mill valley CA USA
    Agreed. I love the theatrical cut. I've read that many feel it's the better film. Haven't seen the blu ray yet.
  16. kevywevy

    kevywevy Forum Resident

    My overall impressions. I love most of his movies (haven't seen anything since Tree) although the directors cut of New World was a little too slow-moving, imho. If I could sum him up in one sentence it would be:
    If you like movies that really make you think (and give you time to do it), look amazing and sometimes have little in the way of plot than you'll like Malick's movies but if "cars go fast and things go boom" is your idea of a good movie you should stay away from Malick. (added bonus, if you like re-watching movies, Malick is your man, there is always more to think about and discover in his movies through repeated viewings.)
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  17. I've only seen Badlands and Thin Red Line. Thin Red Line was a truly transcendental experience for me. The rare time I've experienced pure cinema. I was in a foreign country, I saw it all by myself in a cinema in a strange, non-descript post-communist part of the city. I recently popped in the old DVD and played the Melanesian songs and it brings me back to that time and place. An unforgettable, dreamlike experience.

    Few films have that effect on me. I don't know what to call it... Impressionistic? Pure cinema... I'm rusty on my theory. The other director that rarely fails to have a similar effect on me, though who works in more conventional narrative but is getting more formally experimental... Michael Mann. I daresay, especially his last few films, are doing things with sound and image that tread into Malick territory (and others, too...he is very much of a European tradition of film directing). And like @kevywevy said above, Mann benefits from re-watching.
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  18. For me, I think it's because the acting in Days of Heaven is not as up to par as his other films. If there was some real compelling acting to hold on to, then it might have glued the story together better. With Malick, it's as if he wants the actors to become the embodiments of the characters and just roll film to capture that. Days of Heaven falls short compared to Badlands, The Thin Red Line, New World, and The Tree of Life. Those are all a microcosm of bad ass acting within a macrocosm of Malick's storytelling style.

    The only thing that bugs me is John Smith's modern tattoos in New World.
  19. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Hampshire
    ONE BIG SOUL: An Oral History of Terrence Malick

    I had tracked down Malick's boyhood friends and Harvard/M.I.T./A.F.I. colleagues and onward through each film up until To the Wonder. A work of passion that one was ...

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  20. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Hampshire
    The official American web site for KoC has been posting new clips that aren't seen in the European releases (France & Germany), so let us hope that it's a different version. :)
  21. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Hampshire
    Shall we kick off proper with Badlands?

    Malick first started writing Badlands while attending the American Film Institute. By the age of 27, he was in preproduction with filming to commence in the summer of 1972. Created in the true spirit of independent filmmaking, Malick tapped the monetary resources of his friends as well as his own funds to keep control of the film in his hands until it was shown at the New York Film Festival and purchased by Warner Brothers (along with Mean Streets).

    Badlands was also the first major film debut of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek who played the lovers on the lam streaking a bloody path through the American Badlands of Montana toward Sasketchawan, and were partly based on real-life killer Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate.

    Thoughts on Badlands?
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  22. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New Hampshire
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  23. htom

    htom Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    Badlands was actually the 6th film by Terrence Malick I'd seen, as I only caught up with it by way of the 2013 Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection; all the others I had seen in order of release, and only those since The Thin Red Line in theaters during their first run. Seeing the films in this order seems only to reinforce the consistency of his visual sense, as it didn't seem wildly different in that way from his later films. Quite an accomplishment given three DoPs working on this one, as many as have been credited in all his other films since (noting Haskell Wexler only got an "Additional Photography" credit for Days of Heaven)

    As well, is it possible to see a general or common theme of alienation for almost all his main characters, or maybe their inability to relate to most other people, but not their locations? Kit and Holly find a sort of sanctuary or haven of their own that only lasts until they are discovered.

    Musically the film seems to have immortalized Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer" for the film buff crowd, at least to meaning that Tony Scott's homage (or something else) True Romance had Hans Zimmer composing several pieces very much (or even too much) in the style of that piece.

    I think it probably matters within this film that the viewer can never really identify with our lead characters, or not both at the same time. The violence committed never seems to match their inner thoughts, some of the killings are too casually committed to connect with what has or what will happen. Many of the shots in the film make the lead characters a part of the landscape, and in a way apart from humanity. For all that it is hard to stop watching them.
    masswriter likes this.
  24. jkauff

    jkauff Putin-funded Forum Troll

    Doylestown, PA
    Re: the criticism of Days of Heaven. I saw the movie the week it was released, on a 70mm screen in L.A. It was one of the most amazing cinematic experiences of my life.

    Which is why the film doesn't work for some people. It's more of an immersive experience than a movie, and if you don't see it on a big screen with surround sound it's not going to grab you. The actors are almost an afterthought, just there to put across the story. It doesn't work on TV at all.

    It probably was a bad decision on Malick's part to make it the way he did, since the director has no control over the playback. Trust me, though, this is a total masterpiece when seen the way it's supposed to be seen.
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  25. PhilBorder

    PhilBorder Forum Resident

    Sheboygan, WI
    Sticking with Badlands (and I hope this thread continues in a more orderly chronological manner), here's an excerpt from an insightful Cineaste article a few years back. Malick's style was controlled and formal to the point of rigorous style early on:

    "Criterion's new Blu-ray release of Badlands, arriving on the heels of this spring's theatrical release of To the Wonder, provides a useful lesson in what happens to a director skilled in the ways of composition and a composed manner of editing when he turns to handheld cameras and digital editing tools. Considering its subject, Badlands is a movie governed by an unflappable and uncanny calm. Malick gazes at the engulfing flatlands surrounding Kit and Holly, and his camera (regardless of which three cinematographers he used on the project) maintains Kit's cool, steady exterior. His interest in field and sky, the horizontal bisection defining the above and the below to form a massive stage and playground, is a key subject of the film and a dramatic antonym for a state of being. This is why he rarely uses handheld shots (or, at least, retains very few in the final cut) that upset this steady regard for the horizon and for verticals; they happen only when Kit is at his most brazen and unleashed, setting fire to Holly's family home. The frame's sudden chaos is a shock to the system after the dominant calm, and it signals a shift. The mobile camera, sparingly used, makes its point."
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