Terrence Malick

Badlands 94
[ review ]

Days of Heaven 92
[ review ]

The Thin Red Line 93
[ review ]

The New World 72
[ review ]

The Tree of Life 93
[ It won the Palme d’Or and it’s already been hailed as a masterpiece and an instant classic by some. Easy, now. Oh, this is most definitely a great film, but upon first viewing, I have some issues with it. The first act didn’t quite do it for me, then the much ballyhooed about Qatsi-style creation-of-the-world sequence did impress me as an audio-visual showcase, but not so much thematically. And I believe it’s clear that the Sean Penn thread is the film’s weakest link and that the finale is a bit meh. All that being said, I still loved the hell out of the majority of the picture, starting with the courtship Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain’s characters onto the birth of their three sons and the way their childhood unfolds. All the Malick trademarks are there: the gorgeous magic-hour cinematography, the spiritual/existential voice-over narration, the use of music (both the Alexandre Desplat score and the classical pieces), the impressionistic storytelling, the attention given to nature… But while it may seem pretentious and quasi-experimental at times, I was surprised by how straightforwardly moving it can be – again, particularly during the scenes/moments involving Pitt, Chastain and their boys. I’ll have to see it again before I can say that I even come close to fully understanding it and chances are I’ll love it even more then but, right away, I can tell you that it’s the best film I’ve seen during the whole first half of 2011. ]

To the Wonder 85
[ The first sequence is shot on crappy video, which worried me. Thankfully, after two minutes or so, the film switches to glorious 35mm and we’re treated to some absolutely gorgeous and luminous cinematography, courtesy of Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot all of Alfonso Cuarón’s features, in addition to my beloved “Birdman” and Malick’s own “The New World” and “The Tree of Life”. Also amazing is the use of classical music which, along with the superb images, elevates everything into something incredibly sumptuous. That might be Malick’s greatest skill right there: making the ordinary extraordinary, if not downright magical. There’s not much of a story here, we’re just following Ben Affleck, who’s dating a French woman played by Olga Kurylenko, who has a 10-year-old daughter (Tatiana Chiline), then later (or earlier – it’s that kind of movie), Affleck hangs out with Rachel McAdams… And I guess it’s kind of a problem that Affleck’s character is such a blank. And what’s with the subplot featuring Javier Bardem as a priest? But every shot is so beautiful! Who needs tons of dialogue and a clear plot when a film conveys so much emotion and provokes so many thoughts through visuals? “To the Wonder” is not quite on the level of Malick’s masterpieces, but it’s still pretty damn great. ]