Knight of Cups ★★★★

Knight of Cups is Malick eyeing the cold calculated world of our modern suburban jungle; looking away from his usual muse of nature and earthly auras. To some extent, he is building upon the adult character of "Jack" from The Tree of Life with a similar emptiness present and a very noticeable struggle of forgiveness in the sins that fathers commit. Christian Bale's character serves his purpose as a man drunken and defeated by the hedonism of a Hollywood inspired lifestyle of riches and excess. He becomes a walking mystic, entering and exiting a dream state, capturing the fantasy and the nihilism of luxury and absence of substance in such a life. What I just described is but my own personal interpretation of the themes Malick is trying to introduce in his latest film, however, his trademark style leaves everything well and open for discussion.

Speaking on style, the film begins more adventurous and engaging compared to as it progresses. Malick still incorporates his fluid camera, with the help of his maestro Lubezki, that has been utilized in pretty much all of his films post Days of Heaven. He also turns Bale into much of the same rendition as what he did to Affleck in To The Wonder as a silent, brooding figure aimlessly wandering throughout life with no direction. Many will accuse Malick of parodying his own stylistic choices of past films with some of these directions, but, it is a difficult accusation to maintain when it was his style all along.

However, what impressed me the most was what Malick did differently with this film compared to the rest of his filmography. To some extent, he was more experimental and avant garde in some scenes. Daring to explore different ways, a different look, to make his Los Angeles the haunting place he desired it to be. The one particular black and white scene (that occurred during a party towards the beginning of the film) with the nude woman, equipped with tape and paint on her body, was a completely visceral sight reminding one of the avant garde movement of the 1920's. The other aspect that I found myself really enthralled about in Knight of Cups was how much of a travelogue it was. Which, ironically is another comparison to an early twentieth century film movement of "City Symphonies". Malick's brand was of course different, perhaps more in line with Chris Marker and Sans Soleil.

I'm not sure if I could argue whether or not Malick is the great innovator and artist of modern cinema. His style alone already splits audiences. However, I can say that there is a subjective experiential quality to Malick's work that only some can feel. You either experience it or you don't; it makes his work all the more difficult to pinpoint and critique.