Terrence Malick

Knight of Cups photo
Knight of Cups

First trailer for Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups


Dec 16
// Nick Valdez
I don't have very much experience with Terrence Malick's films, but while I don't necessarily "get" his movies myself, I understand why he's a big deal. Filmed back in 2012, Knight of Cups is finally primed for a 2015 releas...

Review: To the Wonder

Apr 11 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215184:39938:0[/embed] To the WonderDirector: Terrence MalickRating: RRelease Date: April 12, 2013 I write the above acknowledging that To the Wonder is a visually gorgeous film. Moments of sublime beauty pervade the movie as it explores its interconnected notions of love and God. The film mostly centers on Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and the way their love grows, changes, sours, and attempts to endure. She's so mad about him that she and her daughter move to America with him. There's also Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), a priest going through a crisis of faith, and Jane (Rachel McAdams), a woman whose presence puts love in jeopardy. The narrative swirls around them and disperses, swirls around and disperses, and it's as if Malick's trying to create a series of symphonic movements that communicate more through sound and vision than through dialogue. Marina and Quintana's occasional voiceovers set the intellectual and emotional concerns of To the Wonder on the table: Marina asks questions about the nature of love, Quintana asks questions about the nature of God. These questions are interchangeable. Both love and God are intangible powers that people believe in but rarely understand. Where does love come from? Why is love cruel? Where did our love go? (And now switch "love" for "God.") The idea of exploring love and God in its various forms -- and exploring the connective tissue between storge, phileo, eros, and agape in the process -- had me hooked early on. This is the stuff of real life and pop music expanded into the realm of the philosophical and metaphysical. What also enthralled me initially were the visuals and sound of To the Wonder. There's a kind of splendor to the vast shots of tall grass commanded to whip and bow by wind, or a benevolent herd of bison come to graze while two would-be lovers look on, touched and in awe. (Maybe nature itself is the source of God and love, and maybe these moments are uncanny expressions of it. Neil's job involves surveying the effects of pollution in the soil and in people, which might hint at a deeper notion of love, God, and nature as frailer things than we think.) Emmanuel Lubezki's camera drifts like some sort of bird or angel, and there are times that this floating spectator conveys the depth of these ideas. As Neil and Jane grow closer, the score is a dissonant churn like sudden blusters on a plain, until suddenly the melody of their whirlwind romance emerges. This is the potential of the film's material when fully realized. But sometimes when the technical machinery of a work is so perfectly refined, the actual flaws in design are easier to spot. The main flaw in this film: the characters who are moved by love and God are barely realized as characters. While Malick is going for something expressionistic and writes Neil and Marina and the others intentionally flat, I can't help but feel that the flatness undermines the humanity of the whole film. By contrast, I think The Tree of Life is brimming with humanity, even if it draws on archetypes of childhood and parents in its exploration of grace and nature. In To the Wonder we don't really have those rich archetypes. Neil is the stoic man, Jane is the other woman, Quintana is the troubled priest, Marina is naive but then just gets plain crazy. (I suppose if people who talk to God are considered crazy, maybe the same's true with people who talk to love.) They are pieces on a board who don't particularly go anywhere. They don't even connect in the most meaningful of ways. Quintana's story is so to-the-side that he seems like he's from a different film set in the same universe of To the Wonder. What first seemed like human relationships became mere pairings, gears of storytelling machinery coming into contact with each other. Midway through To the Wonder, I began to wonder why Marina and Jane are so in love with Neil. He's a stern and quiet type, and he's ruggedly handsome, but he's not really there for them emotionally. He's a presence but a non-presence as well. He has the personality of a stone in the field, and he's also abusive and aloof. Yet both Jane and Marina are driven mad by their love for him. Love can drive people mad, and people love irrationally in real life, but I think in a film that has its eyes and ears trained on the divine, these simple "just because" answers are unsatisfying. The mystery of the film went from "What is the nature of love and God?" to "Why are these people acting this way?" Even the intellectual/philosophical machinery of To the Wonder that had me hooked begins to falter because of the deficiencies in these character. Marina and Father Quintana ask the same questions again and again through the film without any sense of understanding, progression, or new subtleties of observation. What I sensed instead was a cycle of ideas that are posed and then abandoned, posed and then abandoned, as if by the end of To the Wonder I was further away from a sense of the divine than I was at the beginning. It's not that I expected answers to any of these questions about love and God, but I was hoping that these questions would be asked in more interesting ways and with greater variation. Maybe what's oddest about To the Wonder is that it's made me realize something about my own taste. Even though I like alienating and strange things, they only stick when there's something human there. I don't think it's possible to explore such vital human concerns about this world (and the possible next) with non-humans like these. Without understanding the depth of their internal lives (or having those depths hinted at), these larger concerns break down around them. The imagery and sound that moved me initially become fine technical achievements by a good craftsman rather than indescribable sources of aesthetic wonderment, which is the closest I come these days to a spiritual experience. In other words, I need something human to get at something like the presence of God. In an interview I saw online a week ago, Kurylenko said that she'd filmed more scenes with Bardem's character for To the Wonder, but they were cut from the finished film. Similarly, Jessica Chastain, Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet, Michael Sheen, and Barry Pepper shot scenes for the film but were nixed. It's not out of character for Malick, who shoots a lot, cuts a lot, and leaves many actors off screen, and some of the roles mentioned above were small, but I'm curious what was left out of the film. Maybe these moments revealed other facets to Neil and Marina and Quintana and Jane that just didn't come through for me, which would be a shame since as it is now, the characters of To the Wonder are, like the film, aesthetic objects.
To the Wonder Review photo
What Terrence Malick talks about when he makes a meandering film about love
First let me get this out of the way: if you didn't like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, steer clear of To the Wonder. The untethered camera lingers like mad, and To the Wonder is rife with various other Malickisms. There...

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First clip from Terrence Malick's To the Wonder


Some very subtle film technique at work here
Mar 01
// Thor Latham
This first clip for Terrence Malick's To the Wonder may not be the stuff of excitement, but it does demonstrate some wonderfully subtle film making and cinematography. There's hardly any dialogue, and what is spoken sou...

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Three new international posters for To The Wonder


Full of wonder these posters are not
Dec 27
// Thor Latham
I have to admit that I've never actually seen any of Terrence Malick's films. Not a single one. But these three new international posters for his upcoming film To The Wonder caught my eye because I glimpsed the faces of ...
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Trailer: To the Wonder


What Terrence Malick talks about when he talks about love
Dec 19
// Hubert Vigilla
I think I'm the only Flixist editor who enjoyed Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. I still don't know how I'd rank it against Badlands, but I found it remarkably moving. Yet while enjoying the movie, I also understood (with...
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Next Terrence Malick movie renamed, rated, synopsisized


May 15
// Xander Markham
The Tree Of Life was an existential epic, considering the nature of all creation, the balance between the empathy of divine grace and the cruelty of natural selection, and also dinosaurs. Unfortunately, despite the gorgeous c...
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Hunger Games posters as directed by Bay, Herzog and more


Mar 26
// Liz Rugg
I'm such a sucker for these sorts of things. Below are a bunch of mock-posters for movies that could-have-been if this past weekend's blockbuster The Hunger Games had been directed by other famous Hollywood directors than the...
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New plot details for untitled Terrence Malick movie


Nov 03
// Liz Rugg
New plot points have surfaced for the untitled Terrence Malick movie currently in post-production. At one time titled The Burial, the movie stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, Olga Kurylenko and Rachel Weisz. Th...
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Terrence Malick has officially announced his next two film projects! Fans of the director may be surprised by his move of taking on not one, but two movies in 2012, because the man is famously reclusive, and sometimes spreads...

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Ryan Gosling said to be working with Terry Malick


Aug 26
// Glenn Morris
Ryan Gosling is at the top of his game this year. He seems to have put himself out there as a potential comedian and potential action star following a career marked by straight drama, and succeeded with both. When looking to ...
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Terrence Malick, Sean Penn don't understand Tree of Life


Aug 22
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
Although the announcement of another Terrence Malick film can certainly be seen as exciting, let us not forget about the travesty that was Tree of Life. To reiterate the fact that the film makes no goddamn sense, Sean Pe...
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A new Terrence Malick film with Christian Bale


Aug 19
// Glenn Morris
Terrence Malick has the strangest pattern of movie making magic coursing through his essence. The guy makes two films, then disappears for two decades. He comes back with three more, each taking years just to edit, but now su...
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Fox Searchlight has kindly released this clip from the creation sequence from Terrence Malick's Tree of Life. However, I feel as though I must impress a heavy warning on this clip: if you have not seen tree of Life yet, you ...

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Malick might make six-hour cut of Tree of Life


Jun 17
// Liz Rugg
The idea of a six-hour long version of Tree of Life may make some people dry-heave and others a little bit aroused, but despite it's sensational nature, the evidence to support this claim is actually a bit weak. Apparently Tr...
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Tree of Life UK dates set


Jun 07
// Geoff Henao
Did you read our review of Tree of Life and wished you could put your two cents in, but you find yourself living across the pond? Well, you're in luck! Deadline is reporting that the official release date for the UK has been ...
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Brad Pitt is still working with Terrence Malick


May 31
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
Apparently Brad Pitt doesn't read Flixist, because otherwise he would know that Terrence Malick is a terrible filmmaker. Ignorant of the objective fact that is Flixist's review score, Pitt has decided to continue work with Ma...

Review: The Tree of Life

May 27 // Alex Katz
Tree of Life, narratively speaking, plays it fairly loose. We learn the story of Jack (Hunter McKraken) growing up in the fifties with his mother and father (Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt), who both have radically different styles of parenting. While Mom tries to instill love and a sense of wonder in her children, Dad takes a more pragmatic approach, in the hopes of teaching his children how to get ahead in an unfair, unhappy world. The film occasionally jumps ahead to see older Jack (Sean Penn) looking confused and walking around places, trying to cope with the death of his brother twenty years earlier. For real. That's what Sean Penn does for his ten minutes in the film. This is going to be a fairly short review because, frankly, I can't write at lengths about a movie with absolutely nothing to say. Thematically speaking, here is the message of Tree of Life: life fucking sucks, so do your best. I just saved you two and a half hours of pretentious nonsense and poorly mixed whispering voiceover. Tree of Life is a movie so assured of its own subject matter and presentation that it forgot to actually make something watchable. So much of this film is just blatant wanking off for the sake of wanking off. The much ballyhooed creation and death of the universe sequences are only tangentially connected to the film, more of a thematic statement than any real connection to the plot. Which would be fine, if they were remotely interesting. The only feeling they elicited in me was a certain sense of awe at the visuals, followed by crippling boredom. Yes, in case you still haven't been paying attention, dinosaurs show up. Pointlessly.  The only thing in this film that wasn't student film-level pretentious was the cinematography. Tree of Life may well go down as the most beautiful film of the year. I was absolutely in awe with some of the amazing sights this film provided. That's not just the abstract, cosmic level visuals of the universe creation/destruction sequences, mind. Every frame of film is absolutely gorgeous. A lot of care and beauty went into this film, and it looks amazing for it. The performances are decent. Most characters are cut so broadly that it would be difficult to do absolutely nothing with them. Brad Pitt plays the angry father that eventually comes to the realization that life (gasp!) isn't fair. Jessica Chastain plays the loving mother that realizes that love (oh no!) doesn't make everything better. Sean Penn just walks around looking concerned and confused. That's what they pulled him out of his mansion in Haiti for. The real show is Hunter McKraken as young Jack. His journey from childish innocence to the sullen, unhappy child he becomes would be interesting to see... if the material he works with wasn't so bland. And let's talk about the voiceover work here. Not only is it incredibly generic, but it seems to have been recorded and mixed by a college student. When everything is super quiet, it's unintelligible. When it's louder, you can actually hear the background sound rise in volume behind it. That's bad. I can't say a lot more about Tree of Life because the film doesn't have much else to say. It is a pretentious, unwatchable mess, and I wish I could say better about a film Terrence Malick has been working on for his entire career. It really does pain me to say this, but if there is any justice, Tree of Life will be regarded as one of the worst films of the year. But it won't, because it's "artistic." Max Roahrig: I honestly had no idea of what to expect from Tree of Life when I walked into the theatre. The trailer was intriguing, but like everyone else, I had no idea what the heck the movie was about. After watching it, though, I'm not sure even Terrance Malick himself knew what this movie was about. Sure, it's a "meditation of the human condition", but it's something we've seen a thousand times before. Pixar's Up said everything Tree of Life had to say, without being a completely pretentious piece of turkey crap. Hell, even Jurassic Park had more to say than Tree of Life. And the dinosaurs were cooler in Jurassic Park. As Alex said above, the cinematography is some of the most gorgeous of the year. But great looking cine does not make for a good movie. If this were a cinematographer's demo reel, I'd hire him on the spot. As a movie, Tree of Life is honestly one of the worst I've ever seen. 29 – Painful Sam Membrino: I had a tough time mulling over Tree of Life, because part of me knew there was something there that was undeniably special. The camera literally floats through some truly spectacular scenes in remarkable fashion, but often strays during some overtly spiritual, if religiously ambiguous, sequences. Brad Pitt brings to life his most adult, and aggressive, role to date, shedding his pretty-boy looks and familiar smile for an overbearing, difficult, and occasionally abusive father who truly keeps the film from being too easy to digest. The film's most poignant scenes involved the strained relationship between Pitt's disgruntled father and the sons he is raising, but even strong acting can't sort out this mess. I also loved the score, mixing brilliant concertos and swelling orchestral movements to really extract as much as possible out of the visual amalgam on screen. However, the film suffers from being too heavy-handed, despite Malick's patient and delicate touch (I told you I had trouble with this one). Sequences take too long to develop, there is a general air of discontinuity, and one particular scene with the largely absent (but top-billed) Sean Penn seems trite. If, however, the film is merely a meditation on the Proustian way by which memories are formed and stored, the film comes out surprisingly well. How interested we are in this man's memories, however, remain in doubt. 52 - Bad
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When Terrence Malick makes a movie, it's a big deal. He's only made five movies since 1973, and they are always films that have something unique to say. Malick is probably the most mainstream, high-impact art film auteur in t...

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The Tree of Life gets staggered limited release dates


May 25
// Geoff Henao
Following its awarding of the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, the hype for Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life has grown tremendously. Granted, a lot of hype surrounded the film prior to Cannes, but actually win...
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2011 Cannes Film Festival lineup revealed


Apr 14
// Xander Markham
The headline films of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival selection have been revealed, with the likes of Terrence Malick, Pedro Almodovar, Gus Van Sant, Takashi Miike, Lars Von Trier and Woody Allen all represented in the main com...
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Have a LOT of Tree of Life stills for your morning


Mar 14
// Alex Katz
It may not be as exciting as the gorgeous trailer, these stills from The Tree of Life just add to my already bursting excitement to see this film. Now, unfortunately, none of the pictures are from the rumored creation of the ...
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Terrence Malick's next movie isn't a decade away


Feb 24
// Alex Katz
If you were to tell me that Terrence Malick may possibly be releasing two films in the same year, I’d probably laugh all the way to the Impossible Factory, where impossible things are made. Well, he may not be making re...

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