I Don’t Think I Like Terrence Malick



The Thin Red Line is playing on Sundance Channel right now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like Terrence Malick. It’s not that I’m not a “deep tone poem” guy; I have no problem toning it up. The Master had plenty of tone poem-y moments but I was mesmerized. But Malick, man…I don’t know.

I’ve seen the following Terrence Malick films: Tree of Life, The New World, Days of Heaven and Thin Red Line. I feel this sample size is enough for me to make the lazy generalization (we’ve already discussed this) that 80 percent of Malick’s output consists of drawling rubes babbling shitty poetry over visuals straight from a perfume commercial. Re-reading that sentence, it seems harsh.

Malick’s films are all beautiful and filled with wonderful nature shots and gliding camerawork and painterly precision. I get why some folks slather all over the guy. It’s not like he’s untalented. He also gets some of the greatest actors in the world to appear in his pictures in order to get the films financed before cutting much of their work out of the film entirely. I give him credit for that, because I think that’s funny.

Still, for me, his films haven’t been worth the journey, and maybe that’s because my brain is hard-wired to find a story with a plot. I can sense the ambition in something like Tree of Life, but do I want to see it again? Honestly, no. I’m tired of people whispering questions to their parents. “Mother of the world, do you remember your son? Do you know where I put my car keys?”

I concede that some filmmakers clearly use Malick’s influence. I don’t think The Master would even happen without Malick’s meditations. (“Movies” doesn’t really feel right.) For many people, he’s an icon. But when putting together my stupid list, I never once thought about any of his films.  What does this say about my taste? For a lot of people, it would be proof that I had none.  Considering that I just changed the channel from The Thin Red Line to Wheel of Fortune, they may be right.

(By the way, on Wheel of Fortune, a lady guessed that the title of a song that was spelled “I _a__ The _ine by Johnny Cash” was called “I Have The Wine”. That will stick with me long after close-up Magic Hour shots of grain recede from my mind.)


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