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Knight of Cups, the new film from art house fave writer/director Terence Malick, begins with some excerpts from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, spoken, I believe, in the dulcet tones of Sir John Gielgud. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory about a man who is weighed down by his sin and must seek a path to righteousness, but he finds many dangers, toils and snares along the way.
I suppose the allegory in that classic is supposed to also be an allegory for Rick, the central character in Malick’s drama, and his journey. Rick is a screenwriter who basically just drifts from place to place, observing the world he encounters while avoiding screenwriting as much as possible. It’s sort of like a movie by Federico Fellini, 8 ½ or La Dolce Vita, character studies of a men who are spiritually lost or have writer’s block, set against dwarfing architecture and a somewhat impressionistic view of the local’s lives.
I have to say I liked Knight of Cups, though I also have to say I’m surprised that I did. In Malick’s last film To The Wonder, the filmmaker told an almost impossible to understand story, made almost impossible to understand because it was not told in chronological order. And since you were spending so much time just trying to understand what was going on, it was difficult to become emotionally involved in the movie. And it didn’t help that when you did figure it out, it was a pretty bland and banal story line.
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Ofttimes of late, and not so late, I get into a discussion/ argument/ knock down drag out fight as to whether the director or the screenwriter is more important to the success of a movie, or even to the existence of a movie. The conflict usually boils down to which is more important, the visual or written aspects.
It’s a silly argument, at least it should be, because the answer is that both are important and neither should be denigrated (and are often so intermingled that you can’t even tell what part of the film resulted from one over the other). It’s a pretty obvious conclusion, though you’d be surprised as to how many people don’t go for the obvious. Continue reading →