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Film Review: Knight of Cups

Written by: Rob Goald | March 7th, 2016

Knight of Cups –  **1/2 OUT OF 4

Legendary director Terrence Malick  (“Badlands”, “Days of Heaven”) began his career as a philosophy professor and his latest film is an existential examination of the hedonistic lifestyle of a frustrated screenwriter living in the Hollywood Hills. It is a work in the experimental style of Malick’s much lauded’ The Tree of Life” but does not reach the level of mastery found in that film.

Christian Bale plays the screenwriter and leads an “A” list cast throughout this tone poem whose only point of reference is a whispery voice- over. It is a film focusing on form much like the work of late avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage. We find Cate Blanchett portraying a doctor and Natalie Portman as a comforting soul. Teresa Palmer also appears as a stripper with a heart of gold and pants that appear silver.

Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett in Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups
Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett in Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups

The dream logic imagery is beautiful and the camera soars from mansion to iconic locations like the Las Vegas strip. The ocean has a prominent role as well, as it conveys a space/time continuum. The most violent event in the movie is an earthquake which destroys personal belongings and makes the audience aware of the fragility of life.

Multiple Academy Award winner for cinematography, Emmanuel “Chivo”Lobezki shoots in long takes referred to as mise en scene. Mise en scene is a choreographed movement of the camera and actors and does not allow for editing within the shot delivering a high degree of realism.The camera work is superb and is the reason to see this film which is weakened by its lack of dialogue. It’s time for this artist to evaluate the lack of structure in his work.


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