HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Knight of Cups
HTS Overall Score:70
There are two trains of thought on Terrence Malick. Either you love him or you hate him. You agree that he’s a brilliant director with an existential flair to all of his movies, or he’s just a very talented cinematographer with a horrible grasp on traditional storytelling. I tend to fall towards the second half of the spectrum, and really don’t COMPLETELY enjoy his films. However I do not fail to grasp the beauty and visual poetry he instills in all of his filmography, even if I don’t particularly enjoy them. He hasn’t always been this way, as films like “Days of Heaven” (one of my favorite Criterion releases) and “The Thin Red Line” show a much more traditionally structured tale than his later entries. Recently he has become more esoteric and his films feel more like visual poetry, and abstract art more than anything. “Tree of Life” relied heavily on nature shots and the like to portray his themes of pain, suffering and growth, but here in “Knight of Cups” it’s a much more sterile and gaudy look at society, with imagery that focuses on the crumbling stone and steel of Los Angeles and the effects it has on a single man.
“Knight of Cups” really tosses traditional storytelling conventions out of the window, but it loosely follows the life of an LA writer by the name of “Rick” (Christian Bale) and his meandering life in the L.A./Hollwood scene. A narration at the beginning sets up Rick as a sort of prodigal son. He’s left his father and mother (the King) and set out on his own, only to be poisoned by the hedonistic lifestyle of the foreign land (Los Angeles) and his mind to become obsessed with the pleasures of that land. A seriously miserable man, Rick tries to find love with six different women (played by Cate Blanchett, Imogen Poots, Natalie Portman, Teresa Palmer, Isabel Lucas etc) only to realize that he’s just a wandering man in a strange land. Nothing satisfies his thirst, nothing fills the emptiness of his soul.
The story is really meandering and reads more like a stream of consciousness poem over a traditional narrative, so don’t go in expecting a tried and true PLOT. What we see is sort of a mixture of esoteric poetry combined with improvisation (90% of the movie was improvised according to Malick) to create a sort of visual feast for the eyes. We see Rick moving from place to place, interacting with his brother (played by Wes Bentley) as well as seeking approval from his aging father (Brian Dennehy) narrated over by Rick and the other people in his life that he meets. There is very little dialog as a result, with the narration taking over any spoken parts. Christian Bale himself almost NEVER says a word onscreen, and even the supporting characters like Wes Bentley say a few words before the flashy night club dalliances or intimate interludes take over.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73425[/img]I’m really NOT a fan of Terrence Malick or his films, but while I distinctly dislike watching his movie, I have to recognize the hypnotic skill that he employs in his cinematography. Every image has a meaning, every shift and cut of the camera furthers the tale along and pushes it in a certain direction. “Knight of Cups” central theme revolves around the emotional outpouring from Rick and all the angst, loneliness and pain that dominates his superficial life down in Los Angeles. There’s a beautiful outpouring of chaotic imagery going on here, with what feels very much like what would have happened if Picasso made a feature length film. My complaints stem from the fact that this visual imagery just doesn’t jive well with my love of structure and narration. It works as a background backsetting for a fancy party or some Art gallery, but it’s not a film that MOST people will just want to sit down and watch. My personality is about as rigid and Type A as you can get, so my personal enjoyment of the film was diminished a bit.
Whether you love him or hate him, Malick is certainly a talented, if not controversial, director. “Knight of Cups” is probably his least accessible film to date, even more so than “Tree of Life”, as he strays further and further from traditional storytelling with each and every movie he makes. My score for the film will reside squarely in the middle due to not really enjoying it, BUT appreciating the incredibly complex poetry that is the imagery in a Malick presentation. Visually it’s stimulating and I truly love the man’s eye for detail in his capturing process, but actually ENJOYING the film was not something that happened.
Rated R for some nudity, sexuality and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73433[/img]“Knight of Cups” comes with a striking 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer that is one of the few remaining new releases to be shot mostly on ACTUAL film stock. I say mostly because while the majority of the movie was shot with film, Malick also takes scenes from various other digital sources which make a distinct contrast to the mildly textured grain and fluid movement of the original film elements. Certain scenes can be a bit grainier or show digital noise depending on the lighting, but the majority of the film is filled with neon colored club scenes, or the dull grey of the L.A. architecture surrounding Rick. Sometimes there are brief instances of color banding in the dim settings, or some crush, but overall it’s a solid looking transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73441[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that is on board sounds really really impressive, with crystal clear clarity for the narration and word of thought presentation of the audio. There are some more impressive moments where the surrounds get fully activated, such as the night clubs, or the parties that Rick goes to, but most of the time the only real dialog and sound usage can be the simple voice over narration that shifts between character to character throughout the film. LFE is mild, but still there, showing up in the front heavy mix to compliment a few oddball sounds as well as to pulse with energy during a few pop out bits (again, the clubs and parties). It’s a simple track, but one that is well nuanced and does everything required of it with ease.
• The Making of "Knight of Cups"
Whether you like or hate “Knight of Cups” will probably rely heavily on whether you’ve enjoyed Terrence Malick films in the past. Those who are uninitiated to the man’s eclectic style of film making may be in for quite a culture shock if they blind watch his latest creation, but those who are longtime fans of the man’s slow and deliberate pacing combined with visual storytelling will feel right at home. As someone who has seen just about all of Terrence’s films, I have to say that this one in particular is more art house than even his last few films and definitely the least accessible to the average viewer. The audio and video are quite good, and while the extras are limited, the main draw or repulsion of the package will be directly related to how much you like Malick’s work. I have a heart time recommending a yay or nay here due to the polarizing effect the director has on people, so I will leave it at “Check it out”.
Starring: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Written by: Terrence Malick
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Studio: BroadGreen Pictures
Runtime: 118 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 21st, 2016
Buy My Knight of Cups On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Check it out
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