Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Review: Badlands (1973)
A 25 year-old wants to run off with a 15 year-old. The father says “Uhhh” and then is killed. Then more stuff happens.
Terrence Malick is one of those “Oh, okay,” directors. What I mean is, you know what you’re getting into, down to a level more precise than say, Clint Eastwood (it could be good or bad) or even David Fincher (it could be good or fucking awesome). He’s close to David Lynch’s “Oh, okay, I’m about to be confused and probably angry.” Malick is “Oh, okay, I’m in for some slow pacing and beautiful shots of nature. And the main characters are going to be losers, or at the very least, bad at their jobs.” Badlands might be the only time you can add “At least it’s under two fucking hours.”
What we’re watching in Badlands is a road trip movie with a lot of boring moments and the occasional murder. Martin Sheen drives and provides provisions and escapes by velocity, Sissy Spacek talks about it in a way that I can only assume is directly from her diary after all this happened. Or maybe it’s testimony. They have some quiet moments together where they sit around and love one another like an ordinary couple, until eventually they need to kill someone again. It’s all Texas justice and animal chaos, no mention of morality whatsoever.
While this has shades of an actual “movie” movie, something that easily could have been made by Hal Ashby or Arthur Penn (there’s a car chase), Malick at this early stage manages to assert his desire to film banality and put narration over it in the hope that it comes across like a modernist novel. Martin Sheen stashes a body in the basement, comes back out with a toaster in his hand and says joylessly “I found a toaster.” Then we listen to a choir as the house burns down. Very suddenly some sepia toned B-roll footage appears over some more testimony, and other strange stylistic choices blast you out of the movie. Whatsitall mean? Other than sublimating our mass-murder fantasy… prob’ly nothin I reckon. *shot of clouds*