Knight of Cups

"This film is an invitation to pay attention to life. If there's a better film this year, get ready for a very good year." - San Francisco Chronicle

“There’s something at once vividly familiar and strikingly different about Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups,” a feverish plunge into the toxic cloud of decadence swirling around a Los Angeles screenwriter gone to seed. Having made contemporary American life seem both recognizable and alien in “To the Wonder,” Malick now extends that film’s tender romantic ballet into a corrosive critique of Hollywood hedonism. There’s no denying this star-studded, never-a-dull-moment cinematic oddity represents another flawed but fascinating reframing of man’s place in the modern world. Absent the grand historical subjects of “The Thin Red Line” and “The New World,” or the cosmic glories of “The Tree of Life,” the director has turned his focus on attractively forlorn wanderers set adrift in the present day, pursued by a restless, roving handheld camera that blurs their visions, memories, private moments and encounters with others into one convulsive stream of consciousness.

“Given how few filmmakers of Malick’s stature have made this kind of moral and spiritual inquiry so central to their work, it’s hard not to be taken with a movie that opens with an audio excerpt from “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, then pauses for some stunningly beautiful images of the aurora borealis as seen from outer space, before settling on the figure of a bedraggled-looking Christian Bale walking around a lonely desert landscape. A narrator recounts an ancient tale of a knight from the East who was sent westward by his father in search of a magnificent pearl, but drank from a fateful cup that caused him to fall into a deep slumber. We can safely infer that Bale’s character, Rick, is meant to be a latter-day stand-in for that knight, a Hollywood type who has embraced la dolce vita and lost his sense of self in the process.

“Unsurprisingly for a filmmaker who has steered clear of any conventional or commercially driven rubric over the course of his four-decade career, “Knight of Cups” reveals little interest in dissecting the industry at hand or providing any concrete insights into the art-making process. Malick remains concerned almost entirely with interior states; with the spiritual connections that are forged and ruptured between individuals; and with the grim consequences of a life lived in continual exposure to the world and its most corrupt elements. - Variety


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