Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Leave Terrence Malick Alone

Listen, you Cannes-going blog-bots and would-be critics: you need to shut your flapping fingertips about Tree of Life and Terrence Malick, right now. Yes, it's great that you got to see it, and yes, 50% of you were like "ooh, I need to see it again to know what I really think about it" (not you, Manohla dear), which is heinously annoying, especially for those of us for whom this is the Movie Event of the Year, and then you were all like, "well it's a long, atmospheric look at big questions!" Really? You think? A TERRENCE MALICK MOVIE? And "oh gosh, it's a big picture, sweeping, and maybe self-indulgent and no one is quite sure what to make of it!" FOR THE LOVE OF EISENSTEIN, SHUT UP. For starters, we have seen Terrence Malick movies before, so duh, and yes, The Thin Red Line was like five hours of guys clawing their way up a hill and halfway through you basically couldn't remember who any of the characters were (neither could Malick!), and sure, The New World was basically like a few weeks of reels of people running through fields of INDIGENOUS GRASSES, but that was the point! Nobody had that much to say in Ye Olden Times, unlike now, when apparently no one will shut up! REMEMBER THE GRASSES. Now everyone is a critic, which is fine by me, because any old fool can look at the use of tracking shots in Thor or the THORNY QUESTION OF RACE IN SNAKES ON A PLANE, but when it comes to Terrence Malick, we don't really need to hear what you have to blog-barf! Because you are most likely not qualified to render verdicts on metaphysical questions and their presentation! Especially when his point, over and over again, is that we are all one! Meanwhile, Terrence Malick is a very shy man and also, let's be honest, he is not a spring chicken, and we need to squeeze as many movies out of him before he kicks it, and YOUR JOB, freelance friend who is unintelligibly live-blogging Cannes on your Blackberry, is to say go back to finding out what kind of panties Brad Pitt is wearing, or whatever gets you the pageviews at your respective publications. Good luck getting a table at Côté Jardin while you tromp on art!

39 Comments / Post A Comment

Bittersweet (#765)

REMEMBER THE GRASSES. Words to live by.

C_Webb (#855)

@Bittersweet Lots of good grass in Badlands too. The scene with the father painting the billboard in the middle of nowhere blows my tiny mind.

sharilyn (#4,599)

@C_Webb: *sigh* Badlands = BEST. EVER.

Sproing (#561)

@Bittersweet Grasses? Pshaw. Days of Heaven.

sharilyn (#4,599)

@Sproing: *swoon*

gregorg (#30)

the sun dappling on the grassy hill in Thin Red Line is my favorite part.


Also: What's keepin' us from reaching out, touching the glory? Answer: BLOG-BARF.

doubled277 (#2,783)

Can we assemble a small team to storm the Cannes Blog-Bots' stronghold on top of their hill? I know they have a stronghold somewhere up in that hill, but we can't see it, and it's ripping us to pieces.

SeanP (#4,058)

@doubled277 The enemy has interlocking fields of blog-barf defending their position. We'll have to stay low and toss bloggrenades into their pillboxes.

deepomega (#1,720)

I'm caught in a Chinese Finger Trap of Race Relations, wherein my dislike of Terrence Malick makes me feel less like a Stuff White People Like white person, but having that feeling makes me feel MORE like a SWPLWP. What do I DOOOOOOO?

deepomega (#1,720)

(Also my use of Chinese Finger Trap above is making things even MORE racially fraught inside of my mind!!!!)

roboloki (#1,724)

get out before it's too late!

Keith Kisser (#9,714)

In a world where Michael Bay gets the GNP of a small European nation to make movies about transforming cars, Terrence Malick should be allowed to do whatever the fuck he wants. Our job is to say, "thank you, may we have some more?" and hope to whatever flashy substitute for god is trendy this month that he says yes.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

@Keith Kisser But like, what if Malick directed a movie about transforming cars?

Keith Kisser (#9,714)

@Murgatroid Then it'd be beautiful,poetic and have half the racist jokes of every other movie in the transforming car genre.

saythatscool (#101)

Bitchfork Reviews Reviews?

caw_caw (#5,641)

Damn skippy

sharilyn (#4,599)

YAY this.

HiredGoons (#603)


I LOL'd.

Neopythia (#353)


skahammer (#587)

Although…just how many people *have* seen a Terrence Malick film before, do you suppose?

CatsInBags (#3,656)

"freelance friend who is unintelligibly live-blogging Cannes on your Blackberry" — I have two of these. what is happening.

Tray Tray@twitter (#12,577)

No, this is a stupid post on Choire's part. Of course, when you write in a silly ironic way and end every other sentence with an exclamation point, you can always hide behind your unseriousness and say you didn't mean it, but really, what you're saying is either (a) any movie about "metaphysical questions" is good because it's deep, which we know is not true, because, you know, just go watch The Fountain, or (b) no movie critic is qualified to talk about metaphysical questions, which isn't true inasmuch as people like J. Hoberman and Dave Kehr are really, really bright, AND, because Malick is saying "metaphysical stuff," no film critic can even talk sensibly about whether he's presented said stuff in an interesting or cinematic way. Now this is just nonsense. It is true, of course, that Mahnola just isn't smart enough to be writing about film period, but that's rather different than saying, "Mahnola's allowed to write about film, but this is a very special metaphysical film that she's not allowed to talk about." Every great filmmaker – Welles, Eisenstein, Murnau, von Sternberg, Ozu, Lang, Vidor, Ray, Hitchcock, Preminger, Tourneur, etc. – is a metaphysician to some extent, and we've gotten along fine for about a century with film critics writing about their work. Of course, the Mahnolas of their day typically wrote really stupid things about their films, as stupid people will do, but there were also good critics in the 20s-60s, often ones who wrote for more nichey publications than the Times, whose work is still worth being read today. So while I wouldn't be too interested in what the critics from the four remaining big papers or three big weekly magazines in America have to say about this film, just as I wouldn't be interested in what Dargis, Richard Corliss, Lisa Schwarzbaum, etc. have to say about ANY film, I do think that there are a ton of takes worth considering.

pajamarama (#6,019)

@Tray Tray@twitter So cute to misspell someone's name while you're saying she's the stupid one!

gregorg (#30)

@Tray Tray@twitter
you registered to post this? I thought Choire's point was, STFU precisely because Malick is Malick, not because he's one of some grand subset of auteurs you pulled out of a Bordwell index.

He's Malick, and He's on a roll, and damned if Choire's gonna let something like the inconvenient timing of the internet dropping into a million typing monkeys' laps get in His way.

scrooge (#2,697)

@Tray Tray@twitter I thought it was in the nature of metaphysics that nobody is qualified to talk about it, because (see AJ Ayer et al) it's meaningless?

I imagined this as a voiceover played over the fire scene in Days of Heaven.

laurel (#4,035)

I am a huge fan of Terrence Malick movies and also indigenous grasses (and who else is going to fake a Carolina parakeet for you? No one!) and yet? I am dreading this movie. Metaphysical Brad Pitt? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

hockeymom (#143)

@spiralbetty I am dreading this movie because there are too many kids in it. I know one is going to grow up and be Sean Penn so that leaves two to get killed off. There's no way a movie like this is going to allow both children to survive. And from all the previews I've seen, I'm pretty sure one of the kids is going to be killed by a shower curtain.

laurel (#4,035)

@hockeymom Normally, a child-killing shower curtain would make me feel better but I fear Malick has softened past the point of tolerability. He was willing, in Badlands and Days of Heaven, to look upon real suffering and hold the take… and then move on to the lightest li'l joke, the non sequitur deftly highlighting both the catastrophe and the human will not to just survive, but to survive unscathed.

In (the) Tree of Life (preview) we have non-stop vapor/water images? Breathy parental influence voiceovers? Rose windows? Slot canyons? Sean fucking Penn?

I thought Malick had a prescient eye for casting riveting actors, not just famous movie stars. He cast Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Richard fucking Gere, Sam Shepard and Brooke Adams before they were famous. He directed Q'orianka Kilcher so well in The New World. But his last three films have been crazy lists of Oscar(tm)-approved actors with not enough to do.

The Life And How To Live It punctuation of the preview makes me wonder if he's terminally ill.

Neopythia (#353)

@spiralbetty It seems like actors are almost secondary to what Mallick does. There were outstanding performances in Badlands, Days of Heaven, etc. but so much of his style comes from editing. With the exception of Badlands, his movies often feel like he abandons the script and finds his own narrative in the images.

I remember trailers to Thin Red Line which were all star heavy, but that's not what I remember about the movie. I think Thin Red Line and I think about grass, and water, and those curtains. I couldn't begin to tell you the plot. Something about WWII?

Trailers need to sell a movie. More than perhaps any other director I don't think they can possibly do a Mallick film justice.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Yeah, yeah, yeah…. but see, this is a Brad Pit movie. If Malick didn't want dumb people to talk about it, he wouldn't have put the fucking Brad Pit in it.

laurel (#4,035)

@Niko Bellic Strongly agree.

KarenUhOh (#19)

As Sub-Commisioner of Heaven, I have commissioned Mr. Malick to direct Snakes on a Plane II. Starring Adam Sandler and Eve Plumb.

Charles Bogle (#8,706)

Can't we just learn to ignore the blog-barfs that regurgitate the talking points that have been ordained from the studios in the same way we've learned to ignore the White House press corps who do the same thing? Who the fuck reads reports from film festivals more than once? And if Malick can make a great movie with Richard Gere in it, Brad Pitt will be no problem.

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