The Films of Terrence Malick

The Films of Terrence Malick

The Films of Terrence Malick

The Films of Terrence Malick

Synopsis

Despite overwhelming acclaim for his work, director Terrence Malick remains an under-examined figure of an era of filmmaking that also produced such notables as Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese. His films Badlands and Days of Heaven remain benchmarks of American cinema, while his recent The Thin Red Line returned him to the pantheon of American directors. In this new study, authors James Morrison and Thomas Schur examine each of his films in detail, drawing on extensive archival research to construct a portrait of his working methods as a director as well as the thematic, aesthetic, and cultural components of his work.

Moreover, aside from tracing the development of Malick's filmmaking from its beginnings to the present, the book compares his finished pictures to their original shooting scripts, and so provides a unique means of exploring the nature of his working methods and the ways in which they influence the final products. Revealing the ways in which these films connect to and depart from evolving traditions of the last 30 years, The Films of Terrence Malick provides a comprehensive and penetrating study as well as an informative and adventurous work of film criticism.

Excerpt

Trying to assess the achievement of Terrence Malick in the wake of his third film, amid a career of some thirty years’ duration, presents a number of challenges from the start. the sheer number, for instance, does not signify great quantity, and though these three films—Badlands (1974), Days of Heaven (1978), and The Thin Red Line (1998)— stand among the most revered and influential of this definitive period, they are not the first movies to come to mind as one tries to parse the tenor of that time, or to define a particular Zeitgeist of the era. More noteworthy in that respect might be the anarchic, derelict melodramatics of Martin Scorsese {Mean Streets, Taxi Driver), the makeshift psychedelic angst of Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now), the feverish pop-cult energy of Brian De Palma (Sisters, Carrie, the Fury), the social consciousness mitigated by the somber satirical temper of Paul Schrader (Blue Collar, Hardcore), the free-wheeling fancies of Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), even the hothouse surrealism of David Lynch (Eraserhead).

In relation to their precedents in the Hollywood cinema, and by comparison to their contemporaries, Malick’s films seem quite selfeffacing, in their way, and far less inclined toward a self-defined novelty. They give the sense of a steady hand at work, of unstinting qualities of gravity and seriousness, of a thoughtful gaze that remains clear-eyed, even at its most daunted. in fact, like many of the world’s great filmmakers—the case of Orson Welles springs to mind at once—Malick has come to be defined in his reputation against en-

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