Knight of Cups ★★★★★

Underneath the pristine images of Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups looms a growing anxiety. This is a story of a man who has lost his way, alienated from the world but desperate to return to it. In many ways, his journey is an extension of Sean Penn's in The Tree of Life, the next step on what is hopefully the path to enlightenment and redemption. And yet, the protagonist in Knight of Cups cannot help but find himself led astray by the illusions that threaten him: every surface he encounters is a façade, every person concealed as if participating in one large masquerade. If anything is made clear within the first five minutes of this film, its that more than anything else, Knight of Cups is about the struggle to navigate the illusory realities of the digital age, and more importantly, the existential consequences of what happens when, as one of the characters so eloquently puts it, "no one cares about reality anymore." Malick has always found a way to challenge us with his images through montage, but in Knight of Cups, he asks us to challenge the information of the image itself. In an essay on French filmmaker Jacques Tati, Jonathan Rosenbaum once noted the latent hypocrisy within Tati's works; despite the indictment of modern technology present in all of his films, Tati as a filmmaker is entirely dependent on such technology to achieve his audacious ends. Such is true for Malick, who in Knight of Cups questions his own reliance on digital technology and whether this further alienates us from the reality he so desperately pursues. It's hard to say whether Malick finds his way by the end of the piece - and I do say its Malick at the center of this piece, for it is clear the film is exceptionally autobiographical. But what I can say with upmost confidence is that this is Malick's true masterpiece, the film that above all others shows his entire journey as a motion picture artist.

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