Tag Archives: Terrence Malick

XL Popcorn – The Thin Red Line

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 933/1009Title: The Thin Red Line
Director: Terrence Malick
Year: 1998
Country: USA

When I am finished with the 1001 list, I am going to be happy in the knowledge that I will never have to watch another war film unless I really want to. There are so many war films in the world and way too many on this list. And whilst there are some, like The Burmese Harp, that I end up loving – it’s still not a genre I am keen to see.

Still though, The Thin Red Line is meant to be one of the greats of the modern war genre – so it’s a film that I have been interested in. This is despite the last two Malick films I’ve seen being on either side of the enjoyment fence. I guess I hoped with this this being the big  Terrence Malick film to see, I would know either way what I felt for him as an auteur. Now that I have seen it – I am still not sure.

The Thin Red Line is a very Malick film. It meditates on every detail, sometimes a lot longer than it may need to – but there is a very distinct and human of view. Sadly, so much of the parts of this film just got lost in this philosophical miasma that he creates, which at times works and at others just feels incredibly self-indulgent.

Then you get the other side where it is intense and there’s a lot of explosions. Due to this more meditative stance in other parts of the film, you feel more for the losses that the US army make on this literal uphill battle. You also have film stars you recognize being killed off quickly, so it does feel like no one is safe other than Nick Nolte’s character.

There’s a lot to phrase, but also a lot that hindered. I don’t know if I will get a better understanding of Malick by watching more movies (maybe The Tree of Life?), but I guess you don’t need to get to know to know a director to appreciate them. At least this was not the original five hour cut. I don’t think I would have been able to deal with that.

XL Popcorn – Badlands

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 798/1007Title: Badlands
Director: Terrence Malick
Year: 1973
Country: USA

From never having seen a Terrence Malick film to seeing two in the space of a few months. It may have helped to actually start getting to know Malick via Badlands, seeing how it is his debut film, but maybe things worked out better this way. After all, Days of Heaven somewhat lowered my expectations which then allowed Badlands to come in and absolutely knock it out of the park.

Thanks to films like Easy Rider I approach a film from this era of cinema that is also described as a ‘road trip movie’ with some degree of trepidation. However, it’s only a road trip movie in the same sense that Bonnie and Clyde is. The trip doesn’t really pull focus as it is more about the relationship between 15 year old Sissy Spacek and 25 year old Martin Sheen, whose killing spree and flight North appears to be loosely based on a real case from the late 1950s.

Where Bonnie and Clyde has the glamour of the celebrities that couple became, Badlands has none of that. Everything feels just that more cynical and matter-of-fact to the point of cold sociopathy. The way that sheen’s character kills off a young couple who were at the wrong place at the wrong time is chilling and the first point where you can see the charming personas lip a bit in the panic of being on the run from the law.

What also helps this film to truly sing is Malick’s direction. I think an issue that I had with Days of Heaven is that it was so measured at times that I couldn’t see some things beyond the feeling that it was getting a bit pretentious. Here, with the way he has composed the shots and framed it with the classical music and Spacek’s somehow brings an ephemeral quality to the killing spree and helps to highlight the increasing isolation felt by the couple. Also, I just have to give massive props to whoever built the treehouse and assorted forest gadgets, that was very impressive.

Thanks to my husband being awesome, it looks like I will be reaching 800 films by the end of the year. I’ll make it up to him by making the Netherlands one of the next countries for my world cooking challenge which, after three months break, will be starting up again soon.

XL Popcorn – Days of Heaven

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 767/1007Title: Days of Heaven
Director: Terrence Malick
Year: 1978
Country: USA

I have been watching a copious number of films for well over a decade, which makes the fact that this is my first Terrence Malick film all the more surprising. Granted, he took a 20-year hiatus between this film and The Thin Red Line, but he is one of those directors that anyone who loves film should have encountered. Good thing I managed to fit this in before I turned 30.

Given how respected he is, the first watching of any Terence Malick was always going to suffer from the weight of expectation. So, was it worth the wait and was Days of Heaven the film to make me into a fan? Well, the answer to that is a lot more nuanced than I would have expected. For, whilst I wouldn’t say that this will end up in my top films of all time list, I cannot deny that I am thankful for the experience (and no I am not just referring to the sex pot that was 1970s Richard Gere).

The storyline (whereby temporary farm workers conspire to array the rich land owner to eventually end up with his fortune once he dies) never really goes beyond the original sketch plan. However, that doesn’t really feel much of the point with this film. Instead you have arguably one of the best shot films or have been nominated for an Oscar – to the point where you could blow up most of the frames (apart from the locusts) and turn them into some pretty stunning wall art. Little wonder, therefore, that this walked away with awards for the cinematography.

It also has a beautiful soundtrack that makes great use of the ‘Aquarium’ piece of Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals as well as original music by Ennio Morricone. The whole thing plays like Malick’s own wistful daydream of a time gone by, and that’s such a hard thing to pull of well. Thing is, I missed there being some decent character development here and, instead, it felt like watching a beautiful puppet show rather than a cinematic masterpiece. Make of that what you will.