Friday, August 5, 2016
Review: Knight of Cups (2015)
Christian Bale, indistinguishable from Ben Affleck and Sean Penn, wanders around the decadent wasteland of the Los Angeles overworld, hopping from girlfriend to topless girlfriend, mumbling something or other about a lifetime of regrets while the latest in filmmaking technology is used to say absolutely nothing. We'd sure feel bad about it if these people weren't so goddamned rich.
It is unsurprising at this point that Malick uses his legacy to strip his own work to its core, down to what is essentially a visual symphony of his own subconscious. Images are strung together randomly, title cards reference material we haven't read, narration is present because something has to be said, and the nudity is there to wake up the audience. Do the investors ever wonder if they were tricked into financing a vacation?
To be fair, there is a spark here that, had he hired the editor of the trailer, could have ignited into a fireball. If the staged earthquake near the start of the film led into the beginning of a plot, if scenes actually connected to those around it, if he had drawn parallels from the balsa wood sets on the WB Lot to the stone artifice of the city itself, if extemporaneous dialogue blurred with actors playing actors reciting lines, if he hadn't missed so many opportunities to build something, there could have been an actual movie here. Malick confining himself to a metropolic prison and drawing connections from metaphysics to the incomprehensible nature of the movie industry practically films itself, but even he couldn't resist falling back on his old standbys: shots of mountains and fields and oceans curving into the horizon and wasting our time with bullshit. More like Yawn of Time, right guys?
This long after 1973, I think I'm finally beginning to understand Malick. The man who always seemed so uninterested in screenplays and storytelling structure is exactly as he seems, no artifice no filter. Myth is biography to him, and that has become his own hell. The manifestations through the narration, actors speaking inaudibly, fish-eye lenses and slow dollys on nature, all of it comes from a man trying to break free of himself, a man hopelessly addicted to the search for meaning but unsuited to the task. Doomed.