‘Knights of Cups’ portrays life of screenwriter in LA

David Seely/Staff Writer

Fans of writer-director Terrence Malick tend to be some of the most loyal, yet often times frustrated people in the film buff community.

The acclaimed director burst onto the scene with his 1973 directorial debut “Badlands,” and his second feature, “Days of Heaven,” and then proceeded to famously take a 20-year hiatus from filmmaking.

Ever since his return in 1998 Malick has left critics and fans alike divided over the direction his career has shifted.

There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that Malick had a true vision and grasped the craft of filmmaking, but even his biggest fans have been left wanting something a little more substantial from the seasoned veteran of cinema. His newest film is no different: it sees Malick continuing to evolve as a director and venture out from safe waters into uncharted movie making territory.

“Knight of Cups,” is the cleverly titled new entry into Terrence Malick’s filmography and much like his previous two films, “The Tree of Life,” and “To the Wonder,” we find Malick using a more unconventional and experimental style of storytelling.

Before 2011’s “Tree of Life,” Malick was coming off of two epic historical dramas with the 1998 World War II film “The Thin Red Line” and 2005’s “The New World,” about the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement. On the other hand, Malick’s last three films, including “Knight of Cups,” have dealt with smaller, more personal family stories. Some of which are thought to be parts of Malick’s own life and experiences.

“Knight of Cups,” is named after a tarot card and divided into eight chapters, named after the different tarot cards, respectively. Tarot cards are used for many things, including, foretelling the future, measuring potential outcomes, and answering questions about yourself and your own life.

The film stars Christian Bale as a screenwriter in Los Angeles living what he thinks is a Hollywood dream. Several characters played by Cate Blanchett, Imogen Poots, and Natalie Portman float in and out of his life as he struggles to come to terms with what his life of excess has turned him into and the effect it also has on his family.

To say that the film is unique would be an understatement. The film has very little on-camera dialogue and instead relies on nonlinear structure, flashbacks, and series of vignettes showing the different characters interactions with one another. The different chapters are meant to be like tarot cards themselves: open to interpretation and flexible enough so that each person can derive their own conclusions from them.

If you are looking for concrete resolutions throughout the story you will end up disappointed because what you will find will only leave you asking more questions.

The fluid cinematography of now three time Oscar winner and frequent collaborator, Emmanuel Lubezki, stands out and really helps to connect the somewhat disjointed feel of the movie. The camera is always moving and seems to float in and out through the beautiful landscapes and eye-popping architecture.

This film will not appeal to the casual moviegoer, but this was never Malick’s intention anyway. He has made a career off of going against the grain and challenging the norms of the industry.

I have friends who can’t stand to sit through one of Malick’s movies and others who swear by him as one of the all time greats. If you want to see which side of the pendulum you will fall on then look out for “Knight of Cups” when it gets a limited release starting March 4.

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