Knight of Cups

Malick is pushing the boundaries of cinema, opening up the possibilities of the medium as a form of absolute self-expression, unencumbered by the rigors of structure. It periodically drifts into total abstraction, but still asks us to think profoundly of what we have in this world. Who we have in this world. Over the course of his last three films, it's become fashionable to deride Malick's ruminations, accusing him of banality and pompousness. His style has permeated the general market and has produced countlessly shallow copycats in film, music videos, commercials. It's been aped with such frequency - and, most damagingly, grossly decontextualized and stripped of its meaning - that he no longer stands on hallowed ground - i.e. "he's parodying himself." For me, even considering its imperfections - of which there are many - I was deeply, deeply moved by it. It doesn't provide answers and it doesn't ask questions. It's an invitation to embark on a journey with it - simultaneously grand and personal - to flow with it, to get lost in it, and, perhaps, to find one's own clarity within it. This is already sounding probably laughably hyperbolic, verging on the bombastic, but I can confidently say I've never seen a film quite like it. Those ready to group it with Tree of Life and To The Wonder have to tread carefully: though familiar tropes remain, Malick has, for all intensive purposes, eradicated the narrative form. There's no "endpoint" (i.e. the last shot). There's no script. Barely any dialogue. The camera frequently cuts away from the actors to capture the L.A. environment: monolithic office buildings, sparsely populated beaches, modern home interiors, nocturnal driving shots of the city's barren boulevards and highways (often times from the POV of a car's front bumper). With Chivo at the helm, everyday objects become luminous, given new meaning, new light. The frames of reference - if any even exist - are Antonioni's alienation trilogy, Tarkvosky post Rublev, digital era Mann + Heat, Inland Empire, Adieu A Language, some WKW and some 8 1/2. But I don't think that even does it justice. This film is a living, breathing organism.

It's only January 11th. And I've already seen the film of the year.

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