Friday, June 03, 2011

jun 11-17 | terrence malick at vancity, park, fifth ave

With Terrence Malick's Tree Of Life having recently bagged the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and opening June 17 at the Fifth Avenue (with a special preview showing at the Park at 10am Sunday June 12), the Vancouver International Film Centre is serving up a Terrence Malick retrospective June 11-16. Good on them. Every one of these films deserves the big screen - most especially the magnificent Days Of Heaven.

Pocket Money (1972) is a Malick-adapted screenplay that I saw back in the day, but can't for the life of me say I remember showing any Malickisms. Badlands (1973) was his first directing gig, very potent, distinctive - a dreamy, haunted In Cold Blood. Days of Heaven (1978) is one of the finest films ever made, a strong personal favourite, and sees the director moving in Soul Food directions with a distinct Old Testament flavour. Twenty years later, The Thin Red Line (1998) aims for the same sort of mystical / transcendent themes in a WW2 movie, but I found the sprawling film confused, confusing and narratively awkward - though it has its enthusiasts. At the time I wondered if the story problems could be chalked up to studio demands to drastically trim the almost six hour film to what was considered a more audience-friendly three hour running time: I wondered if it would hang together better in the director's original cut? But The New World (2005) disinclined me to give Terry the benefit of that particular doubt, when it became apparent that a Malick disjointed narrative was a matter either of intention or ineptitude. I found the film excruciatingly annoying, but its defenders are many, the redoubtable Jeffrey Overstreet among them. I'll be giving the film another chance sometime when I'm feeling patient and contemplative: it's clearly one of those movies that can very much depend on the viewer's frame of mind. And, regardless of one's patience for its disregard for narrative continuity, shape and momentum, there's no denying it's fundamentally and explicitly concerned with matters of faith - indeed, of Faith.

So I await Tree Of Life with anticipation and trepidation. Here's hoping it's another Days Of Heaven, or even a New World I might be more in a state to appreciate. But grand or galling, it's a movie I won't be missing.

Here's a rundown of the Malick-o-rama, chronologically. Note the venues carefully.

The Thin Red Line (1998, 170 mins)
Sat Jun 11  8:45 | VanCity
A war movie unlike any other, Terrence Malick's spellbinding film is a poetic refraction of James Jones's autobiographical novel – an account of the US marines' six-month assault on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal in 1942. Making his first film after two decades' silence, Malick shied away from genre. Instead, he gives us a philosophical meditation on life and death in nature and in man, a choral epic suffused in images of limpid beauty and stark horror.

Tree Of Life (2011, 138 mins)
Sun Jun 12  10am | Park Theatre
Special preview

Days Of Heaven (USA, 1978, 94 mins)
Sun Jun 12  8:45 | VanCity
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Cast: Brooke Adams, Richard Gere, Linda Manz, Sam Shepard
A melodrama pared back to the bone and filtered through the hazy consciousness of a child, this may be an unlikely masterpiece but it's now universally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful films ever committed to celluloid. A turn of the century prairie tale of love and death, it was filmed in Alberta standing in for Texas, at harvest time.

The New World (USA, 2005, 135 mins)
Tue Jun 14  8:45 | VanCity
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Cast: Colin Farrell, Q'orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, Wes Studi
In his last film, Malick imagined the Americas as they first appeared in the eyes of the British settlers, a verdant Eden of mystery and promise. But he also gives us the European colonialists through the eyes of the natives. This is also a love story, but not a very happy one… his Paradise Lost. It's like a diamond, a rhapsodic reverie that reveals new facets every time you hold it to the light.

Badlands (USA, 1973, 94 mins)
Wed Jun 15  8:45 | VanCity
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Cast: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates
The expanse of the Mid-West supplies the intimate distance of Malick’s directorial debut. Against it, runaway teenagers Kit and Holly seem small and remote. And Malick allows them to stay that way. They may be famous, these killers from the middle of nowhere, but they're still nobodies when you get to know them. Laconic and pure, there aren't many better films about the wide open spaces inside us.

Pocket Money (USA, 1972, 102 mins)
Thu Jun 16   7:00 | VanCity
Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg
Cast: Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Hector Elizondo
Charismatic performances from Newman and Marvin enliven this low-key contemporary western, a comedy about a naïve cowboy and his savvier sidekick who get burned on a cattle deal in Mexico. Earning his first studio credit, Malick scripted from a novel by JPS Brown. Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) directs.

Tree Of Life (2011, 138 mins)
Fri Jun 17 | Fifth Avenue

P.S. Some nice screen shots at cinema_fanatic

...thanks, Jason

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