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TIFF BELL Lightbox presents - Terrence Malick

02 Jun 2011

All the Films of Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick’s new film THE TREE OF LIFE which also won this year’s Cannes Palme D’Or Award Will be screened from June 17th at TIFF Bell Lightbox.  Working in accordance of this new film is TIFF’s retrospect of Malick films beginning June 3rd with BADLANDS.

Malick has made only 5 films in his career and this is the chance to watch all of them.  His recurring favourite themes of death, new beginnings and the mysteries of life and death can be witnessed in all the films.

TREE OF LIFE is reviewed in the review section of the site (will be posted on opening day) and the other 4 films are capsule reviewed below.

For complete showtimes, schedule of the films, check the Cinematheque Ontario website at:
http://www.cinemathequeontario.ca

Capsule Reviews:-

BADLANDS (USA 1973) ***
Directed by Terrence Malick
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Malick’s first film is rough on the edges but shows his potential as a great director as in his later films after.  Made for a measly $300,000 compared to his next film DAYS OF HEAVEN in which he went deadly over-budget, BADLANDS is an efficiently made film, full of atmosphere, period and drama.  Narrated by the young Holly (Sissy Spacek), giving it a perspective, the story follows her and her new found beau, Kit (Martin Sheen) who both go on a killing spree after he (Kit) shoots her father (Warren Oates) for refusing her to see him.  Kit’s appetite for violence contrasts with Holly’s romantic desires.  The BADLANDS of the title refers of the terrain in South Dakota where Holy’s father had decided to settle.  Like the land, the characters of the story are destroyed by the past like the terrain destroyed by past wind and water.  Sheen and Spacek give excellent performances as the two on the run.  Based on a true story!

DAYS OF HEAVEN (USA 1978) ****
Directed by Terrence Malick
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DAYS OF HEAVEN is the story of Bill (Richard Gere), his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) and her sister Linda (Linda Mantz) working as seasonal labourers for a rich farmer (Sam Shepard) in Texas, Panhandle 1916.  These are hard times.  The farmer learns he is supposed to die within a year but falls for Abby. Bill, posing as Abby’s brother to everyone tells her to marry him to inherit the fortune.  But the farmer remains healthy and he eventually learns of the con.  DAYS OF HEAVEN is about disaster of human relations, disaster of the depression times and of the land.  A locust swarm destroys the farm at the end.  Malick’s film is stunning to look at, having hired two of the world’s best cinematographers to work on this movie – Nester Almendros and Haskall Wexler (after Almendros had to leave for another film).  The visuals take over the story telling.  From the shots of the red hot molten metal, the combine harvesters, the train carriages carrying the people on the top to the fire in the fields, Malick’s film is a true knock-out.  The story is put into perspective by the voice over of the young Linda, creating an innocent yet revealing outlook on the occurring events.

THE NEW WORLD (USA 2005) **
Directed by Terrence Malick
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Ambitious, overlong at 2 and a half hours, stunning and eventually defeating, Malick’s NEW WORLD is a romantic adventure that traces the loves of Pocahontas (O’orianka Kilcher) to Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell).  The setting is the founding of the Jamestown, Virgina settlement.  The film begins with the arrival of 3 ships sent by England to found a new colony.  When things fail, Smith is sent by Captain New port (Christopher Plummer) to lead an expedition to trade with the ‘naturals’.  He and his group are captured but he lives with the naturals and falls for Pocahontas.  Malick’s visuals are again nothing short of stunning from the sunlight shining through the tall trees, to the clear river waters and the sight of the boats rowing upstream.  The native dances and practices are believable and the desperation and hardships of the men adapting to a new place and effectively captured on film.  But the film slacks after Smith and Pocahontas depart.  The film fails to interest after the other Englishman John Rolfe (Christian Bale) comes into the picture and falls for Pocahontas.  The shift in the voice over from Smith’s to Rolfe’s does not help focus the narrative either.

THE THIN RED LINE (USA 1998) ****
Directed by Terrence Malick
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The critically successful THIN RED LINE marks Malick’s next film 20 years after DAYS OF HEAVEN.  The film did not do that well at the American box office, likely due competition from the other war movie SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.  Malick’s war film also highlights the horrors and futility of war – though in a different way.  Here, the enemy (the Japs) are hardly ever seen, and the tension rises from not knowing what is out there.  But the film has its gory scenes with blown up body parts.  Malick has assembled a great cast that includes Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Ben Chaplin, John Travolta of which Jim Caviezel, Elias Koteas and Nick Nolte stand out.  The action takes place on a South Pacific island where the soldiers are ordered to take out the Japanese who have grounded themselves well on a hillside bunker.  With the American casualties increasing, the tensions and emotions mount.  But Malick also infuses the beauty of nature (colourful parrots, a soldier discovering the touch-me-not plant), conflicting with the undergoing war.  THE THIN RED LINE is one of the most gripping war dramas in the past decades.

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