Archive for September, 2009

The Road, it’s going somewhere……..

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 30, 2009 by babydylan

A few years ago my mums partner gave me a book for Christmas called The Road, a novel by Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country for Old Men). The book was about a father and a son making their way through a desolute and post-apocalyptic version of earth, camping in the ruins of buldings, encountering savage locals and all the while trying their hardest to fulfill a ‘quest’. What kind of quest, we didn’t know. I may be an exception, but it took me while to figure out that the novel’s world has been ruined by global warming (and the other grievances commited by us, the humans). I could see the futuristic element to it, but the idea of the earth having been ruined by polution and the novel therefore being a critic of how we’re dealing with global emmisions wasn’t immediatly obvious, at least to me. My mums partner understood the premise straight away.

Thats because at some points the narrative moves past its setting to focus on the relationship between the father and the son, the most poignant and heartrenching part of the whole text. The novel has since become one of my favourites, because it balances this relationship with its subtle attack on how we are treating our planet. Its a reminder that nomatter what happens, we do our best to survive and that love conquers all etc.

Now the novel has been adapted for the big screen by Australian John Hillcoat (director of The Proposition and Ghosts….of the Civil Dead). Whilst it is in capable hands, the recently released trailer was disapointing, as the film looks like it has focused on the ‘disaster’ element of the novel, and has ignored all the rest. It reminds me of The Day After Tomorow, or the new trailer for 2012. Hopefully it is true to the text, and they’ve just cut it this way to get more bums on seats, but then i guess only time will tell………..

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Terrence Malick is not the Messiah! He’s just an amazing filmmaker!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 30, 2009 by babydylan

World War Two film The Thin Red Line exploded onto the scene with a resounding bang, standing out as a stark contrast to another 1998 war drama, Saving Private Ryan. As opposed to it being a confronting portrayal of the horrors of war, with extra schmaltz thrown in (as Ryan was), The Thin Red Line was deeply philosophical, its focus being the devastation of nature. The picture seemed to come from nowhere, details of its production were kept tight lipped. The most anyone could say prior to its release was that it was based upon a James Jones novel, it had an amazing ensemble cast and was the third feature in almost twenty years for filmmaker Terrence Malick, whose previous films Badlands and Days of Heaven are considered masterpieces of New Hollywood.

Rumours began to circulate about Malick’s twenty year hiatus from filmmaking. Who was this guy? Where had he been? And what had he been doing in that time? One rumour suggested that he had been running a second hand book shop in small town America, another was that he became a farmer, or that he was a cobbler operating in Paris. The most likely rumour was that he was teaching English in an American University under the alias of Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo Jr. The New World (Malick’s fourth feature) followed in 2005, and it was considered by some to be a companion piece to The Thin Red Line. Both were period dramas, involved nature being plundered by outsiders, both had a running internal monologue comprised of the thoughts of the characters in the films, and were representative of a filmmaker who was completely in control of his craft.

If the twenty year hiatus wasn’t enough, the perfection of the two films caused us to ask more questions about the man who made them. Who was he, this strange man who had disappeared from Hollywood, but had emerged years later with an ultimate control over filmmaking? And if this wasn’t enough, rumours began to circulate about the secrecy surrounding his projects. Malick’s contracts stipulate that no current photos of him are aloud to be taken, and that he is to give no interviews. Even the documentaries about his films don’t feature any interviews with the man himself, or any footage of him directing, it’s just interviews with his cast and crew. Colin Farrel, who worked with Malick in The New World, has done nothing to quell these rumours of his elusive reputation, in fact in an interview given to a magazine, he seemed to encourage them. “I don’t even remember making The New World. I just remember showing to meet Terrence for an interview, and when I walked into his office there was this shining flash of light…..and I passed out. And I woke up 7 months later and there was this completed film that had me in its cast. Weird.” * When Malick agreed to give a rare public appearance for a Q and A at the Rome film festival, fans were excited thinking it might be the only opportunity to glimpse the man, even capture footage of him. Yet as the following clip demonstrates (taken by an audience member on his phone) this couldn’t happen. We can hear Malick’s voice, but we can’t actually see him. How frustrating is that!

All this weird stuff combined, coupled with the sheer perfection of his films, caused many to speculate whether Terrence Malick was God himself. That maybe God had wandered down from Heaven and began a career as a filmmaker. If you go on IMDb, and look at Malick’s message board, every second post begins with “So Malick, is he like……God?” No he’s not God, nor is he a culmination of other filmmakers who have all pooled their talents and worked under the same alias (as I also heard on the rumour mill). He’s just a normal dude who started off as a normal filmmaker, but quickly tired of the Hollywood system and turned his back on it, deciding instead to operate under his own steam. After looking long and hard, I found two current pictures of the man. The one on the right looks like it was taken without him expecting it, the one on the left was taken at a film festival, on someone’s phone.

terrence_malick__photos[1]

Also, the following clip is from Malick’s debut Badlands, in which he makes a cameo as a door to door salesman, which suggests that at one point he wasn‘t as preoccupied with secrecy as he is now.

Peter Biskund, in the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, portrays Malick as a shy, introverted, normal guy, with weaknesses and eccentricities. “A burly young man, barrel-chested and bearded, Malick looked a little like Peter Boyle with hair**. He was shy and introverted, said very little. Malick came from Texas. His father was an executive with Phillips Petroleum, and he had two younger brothers, Chris and Larry. Larry went to Spain to study guitar with Segovia, a taskmaster of legendary proportions. In the summer of 1968, Terry learned that his brother had broken both his own hands, apparently distraught over his studies. Terry’s father asked him to go over to Spain to help Larry. Terry refused. The father went himself, and returned with Larry’s body. He had apparently committed suicide. Terry, as the eldest son, had inherited the birthright. He was the one who went to Harvard and became a Rhodes scholar, and now when his younger brother needed him most, he hadn’t been there. He always bore a heavy burden of guilt.” Further on, Biskund goes into detail about Malick’s unusual directing style on the Days of Heaven shoot ( including the “meticulous and indecisive” editing of the picture which took place over two years, and eventually made the plot “incomprehensible”, saved of course by the voice over), and the studio inteference Malick experienced during production on both Badlands and Days of Heaven.

Malick’s hiatus from filmmaking is more easily understood when we read the stories surrounding the making of his films, the production delays, the studio’s barging in on the editing, the budget cuts, the uncooperative crew. He disappeared from Hollywood for twenty years, fed up with all the red tape and the bullshit, but like all good directors found himself drawn back to it because of the stories still waiting to be told.

*I made this up, in case you couldn’t tell.

*The dad from Everyone Loves Raymond.