Monday, 4 January 2016


Terrence Malick has apparently run out of new ideas. Fine. Nobody else makes movies like this. Nobody else works like he does. Why should he need new ideas? In Knight of Cups, the master repurposes his technical schematics in service of a story of spiritual dissatisfaction, a desolate disconnect with the real world that Malick treats with embittered apathy. What need for new ideas here, in an artificial town filled with artifice, not isolated by desert and sea but in brutish ignorance of them? Malick the recluse paints Los Angeles as a soulless space, the functional architecture more in tune with the money that made it than the materials, and everything dwarfed by the sky. There's little inspiration up there, or so these people seem to feel. Promise doesn't pay off in Knight of Cups - perversely, this hotbed of talent is where talent goes to wither away into gaucherie and irrelevance. Malick turns away from what is real, and from what is really worthwhile, and wallows in the lavish worthlessness of what he finds. Naturally, it's a technical masterclass - again, what need for new ideas, when the old ones are still so fresh, so idiosyncratic, so brilliantly employed - yet one senses an effort to mitigate the film's innate excellence with the sheer weight of its weightlessness. Knight of Cups is an intentionally difficult film, even necessarily difficult. It's thoroughly admirable, but questionably enjoyable. Does Malick regard his techniques as valid here as ever before, or does he see what we see: a genius suppressing his own genius, willfully assigning his latest film into obscurity? It'd be a fitting, and wholly believable, idea - a new idea, indeed.