Terrance Malick’s new film KNIGHT OF CUPS opens to the public March 4. We were able to catch the sneak showing screened on Monday, February 22 in the brand new Metrograph in the Lower East Side. Many insiders as well as those working on the film attended the screening.
Guests at this private screening in the newly finished Metrograph included Waris Ahluwalia, Anna Sui, Alan Cumming, and many others. Kim Crawford Wine was being enjoyed by all. We spoke with producers Sarah Green as well as Nicolas Gonda. As it turns out, Green had been working with Malick for the past “15 years or so” and they have a “relationship that has developed with an understanding of each other’s approaches”. Gonda spoke highly of working with Malick, noting his involvement in the film as “exciting learning experience”.
Terrance Malik’s most recent film KNIGHT OF CUPS is a little complicated. Perhaps not even complicated; it’s just expansive yet obsessively detailed; a Bosch painting come to life. It’s an entire universe of its own yet in certain regard; it feels as if it plays out over the course of a single day. It doesn’t. One’s brain tries to piece the work together in a logical manner, so ostensibly a lot of it involves flashbacks… But even the question of flashback becomes challenging, to where and when is the main character (Christian Bale) flashing back? Where is he now? Regardless, one senses a downward spiral, an upset stomach, bad feelings; plain nausea for two hours. If the nervousness wasn’t palpable enough already, Malick goes as far as to include an earthquake and a robbery at the house, almost as a parody of the film itself.
If the sparse and largely useless script doesn’t suggest it; the cinematography does- it’s a dizzying, whiplash-inducing, emotionally illustrated film. It never settles- rather it churns and twists from lush beaches to deep oceans, bone-colored mansions, to the waves again, to the cold polished concrete floor of a Venice California beach house, and elsewhere. In terms of the scope of locations, general appreciation for the built world reminds one of Coppola’s LA-set film, “The Bling Ring” (2013). In this way, KNIGHT OF CUPS is the Sofia Coppola film that never was, with lovely slow pans of architecture, zooming down highways, even night shots of the city that felt predictably satisfying. Architecture icons include 901 North Alpine Drive, Pierre Koenig’s Case House 22, Beverly Park, and more.
Did you ever play Grand Theft Auto, the video game where one plays as a serial criminal in a sprawling urban environment? Knight Of Cups feels like that; chic cars, stereotypically modern houses, poorly decorated; gorgeous women; usually naked, unappreciated, and of course, the risk that it could all go away in an instant. If there is humor in this film, it’s dark and metaphysically distant from the “plot”. You’re more likely to laugh at Bale’s expressions of disbelief and dissatisfaction rather than any wisdom he might be holding.
The film is divided into 8 chapters:
- The Moon – Imogen Poots plays Della, a rebellious young woman.
- The Hanged Man – Main character’s brother played by Wes Bentley and the father played by Brian Dennehy.
- The Hermit – Tonio played by Antonio Banderas, an unguided playboy
- Judgement – Main character’s physician ex-wife, played by Cate Blanchett. Cate Blanchett has settled comfortably into the role of rich ex-wife, her acting is moderately predictable, but tastefully done.
- The Tower – Freida Pinto as a serene model.
- The High Priestess – Karen played by Teresa Palmer, is a spirited stripper with a unique point of view.
- Death – Natalie Portman plays with great emotion a woman the main character wronged in past. She has one of the most compelling performances in the film.
- Freedom – Isabel Lucas helps him see beyond the problems, though resolution never actually feels achieved.
The biggest problems people find with this film are twofold. First, people are quick to dismiss the lifestyle of Christian Bale’s character as toxic and excessive. The reality is by denying someone his or her right to an admittedly complicated life is invalidating a personality and holds one hostage for taking pleasure in the best of this world. It is so easy for anyone to say this life should be let go, but in practice, it’s terribly hard. We all live in the world Rick (Christian Bale) lives in, denying that is to live in delusion. Second, it must be understood that the ‘plot’ is apparently thin not because of “bad” (see: sparse) writing but this is, in fact, a trait of a Malick film. Does anyone remember WALL-E? Not understanding this would be an unfortunate disservice to a talented director and writer. The focus on impressionist filmmaking here is greatly commendable; especially when it can so effectively capture the complicated reality Rick is facing in such few words.[slideshow]