Knight of Cups (2015)

Christian Bale and Natalie Portman in Knight of Cups

Dave author picIt’s easy, and not entirely inaccurate, to regard Knight of Cups as the apotheosis of “Malickian.” Terrence Malick’s latest film, centring on the idle thoughts and innumerable conquests of Christian Bale’s Hollywood A-lister (think Coppola’s Somewhere – Los Angeles as purgatory), has all the easily-parodied tropes that have come to define the director’s work. The breathy, insubstantial voiceover. The ethereal, gliding camera. The dissolution of narrative, with scripted scenes obscured by oneiric editing and obfuscatory sound design.

While Knight of Cups is unlikely to satisfy anyone lukewarm on the director’s lyrical filmmaking style, it nonetheless represents a (minor) artistic evolution. Knight of Cups is defined by low-key experimentation, subtle divergences from Malick’s template.  Low-fidelity bursts of digital footage intermittently capture raw, emotional moments. The camera is entranced by planes and helicopters, rather than birds: awed by these emblems of human progress, magnificent and distant. We’re drawn to the beginning: the beach, hands, bare feets, naked bodies. Less successful is Malick’s fascination with the maimed and the impoverished – in context, it comes across as ghoulish.

The incompleteness of the chaptered narrative feels paradoxically purposeful: neither fleeting love, nor extreme affluence, nor slender slices of divinity can fill the chasm of existential emptiness.

3 stars


3 thoughts on “Knight of Cups (2015)

  1. Only 3 stars? While I love innovation and inferences, if there’s not a strong narrative, it’s hard to keep with it. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this one for over a year. I hoped it was brilliant; I’m sure I will watch it and I’ll take your comments with me when I do.

    • I think star ratings are pretty irrelevant to the artistic merit of a film like this, which is why I tried to avoid any kind of judgment in the review proper. It’s such a tonal work that how it hits one audience member will be vastly different to another – and even the same audience member on a different day. There’s a narrative here, I suppose, but it’s so obscured that I couldn’t even attempt to synopsise it.

  2. Pingback: BIFF 2017: Song to Song | ccpopculture

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