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With a Shine on My Shoes

“If Mozart had written an opera set in poverty, it might have had this kind of painful beauty.” So wrote Pauline Kael of Vittorio De Sica’s 1946 “Shoeshine,” which has finally been released in a decent region one disc from Entertainment One (though purists will no doubt prefer the region two release from Masters of Cinema). But the film hasn’t aged well, particularly in comparison to the eternally modern work of Roberto Rossellini, and it’s hard from the vantage point of 2011 to know what Kael was responding to. It remains a watchable film, as I write in this week’s New York Times column, but its compromises, sentimentality and aggressive metaphors make it seem a much lesser film than, say, William Wellman’s “Wild Boys of the Road,” made thirteen years earlier.

Meanwhile, Raro Video has released “Adua and Her Friends,” an intriguing 1960 feature by Antonio Pietrangeli that’s almost impossible to pin down, shifting as it does between wry social observation and romantic comedy, before finally settling into a stunning pessimism that recalls film noir. On the basis of this and “Io la conoscevo bene” (1965), Pietrangeli clearly seems a filmmaker worthy of further investigation. He died in an accident during the making of “Come, quando, perché” in 1969, and the film was finished by the gifted Valerio Zurlini (“Girl with a Suitcase”), a director with a similarly porous sense of genre.

The elephant in the room is Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” and while I’m reluctant to initiate a new flame war, I guess I’ll man up and admit it didn’t alter my sense of Malick’s regrettable decline. Peter Tonguette has a fine piece at his blog that deals with what I would also identify as the film’s most problematic aspect — the frantic, dissociated editing that needlessly fractures the narrative and prevents the emotions (already rather generic) from taking root. But I suspect there are those who disagree . . .

192 comments to With a Shine on My Shoes

  • Brian Dauth

    The difference/opposition between mise en scene and associational editing as a ruling principle for artists was first brought home to me by the films of Claire Denis. I realized that her approach was not the one used by Mankiewicz or Wilder (both in-camera cutters – Mankiewicz would raise his clipboard in front of the lens to prevent coverage he did not want). This discussion and two films I saw recently – THE TREE OF LIFE and THE FRONT PAGE – again brought home the differences for me. I liked THE TREE OF LIFE without loving it and felt that sometimes the associations/editing were too personal/hermetic for me partake in. THE TREE OF LIFE was clearly personal filmmaking, but in some instances I could not find a way to engage the film other than to bear witness to the sincerity and intensity of its composition (maybe it is possible that a viewer, denied access, will experience the images/narrative as generic). This particular experience has added to my belief that a challenge for this way of forming a film is that the personal can become so overwhelming that a viewer is afforded fewer possible points of entry into/engagement with the work.

    To switch to THE FRONT PAGE: I needed a late show and when I happened to glance at my shelf of Wilder dvds, it popped out at me. Peter T’s comments about mise en scene and construction and Dave’s notion from his FEDORA review about Wilder’s level of self-exposure in that film must have been playing in my mind somewhere as I watched the movie. I love Wilder’s four films of the 1970’s, believing that they are the capstone to his career. If John Ford got darker in his later films, Wilder got lighter – the cynicism he wore like a suit of armor was suddenly malleable and less opaque. THE FRONT PAGE had been my least favorite of the four, but Dave’s notion of Wilder’s self-exposure cast the film in a new light. The strategies/patterns of male homosociality and its differences from homosexuality were a preoccupation for Wilder, even more so after he stopped working with Charles Brackett. In this viewing, I realized that just as Barry Detweiler was Wilder’s stand-in in FEDORA, Hildy Johnson is his stand-in in this film.

    Then recalling what Peter T. had posted, I realized that Wilder’s mise en scene (which has an elegance in his 70’s films I do not always find in his earlier work) provided me with a place – an architecture if you will – where I could reside as I engaged Wilder’s deeply personal take on this material. I could retreat from the personal if I chose to do so and enjoy the way Wilder introduces Walter Burns into the Press Room or his use of a medium close up of Peggy Grant to emphasize both her love for Hildy and her growing knowledge of the distance between them.

    With associational editing, I am denied this architecture and instead offered two options: establish an engagement with the flow/associations of the editing (if I am able to) or watch the parade march by. While I will not say that classical narrative/storytelling/mise en scene is universal (you all know about my extreme wariness regarding universals), these elements do have a significant level of social use and awareness. Associational editing deliberately eschews this awareness/familiarity, and I wonder if/how this choice alters the accessibility of the work for a viewer.

    Last note: I do not have any answers to propose – just many questions. Those who read my posts know how interested I am in spectatorship issues, and THE TREE OF LIFE seems to me a great case study in this area.

  • Glenn Kenny, I paired TREE OF LIFE with THE MAN IN THE MOON because they offered such radically different ideas about film style (while being rather complementary in plot, setting, locale, etc.) Perhaps if there were more films made in with the classical mise-en-scene Mulligan and Freddie Francis used in THE MAN IN THE MOON, I wouldn’t feel so compelled to offer it up in opposition to TREE OF LIFE. But that clearly isn’t the case. So, so many contemporary movies are made with the “lack of definition” (in photography, in editing) that Gordon Willis referred to, even if few of them are as acclaimed as a new Terrence Malick film. But I don’t think I’ve ever suggested that Malick’s working methods are accidental, even if the film that ends up on screen lacks, from my perspective, the clarity of the great films of Hollywood past. Do I prefer one style over the other? Absolutely.

    For what it’s worth, I found Sam Wasson’s LA Weekly review of TREE OF LIFE to be, along with Klawans’s, one of the best I’ve encountered.

    I haven’t written too much about the story of TREE OF LIFE, but I will say how much I appreciate Blake Lucas’s description of Monte Hellman’s artistry: “when he has found something eternal, it has been within the specific.” I find this true of the subject of my new book, on James Bridges, whose SEPTEMBER 30, 1955 is virtually Bridges’s autobiography, full of odd details that come only come from life. Yet I find it infinitely more profound than TREE OF LIFE. I don’t think I’m the first observer of the film to think of the ’50s sections of Malick’s films to suffer from a certain generic quality. Well, one could never accuse SEPTEMBER 30, 1955 of being vague or unoriginal in matters of character and story.

  • Brian Dauth, those are wonderful remarks about THE FRONT PAGE (which I have, at times, preferred to HIS GIRL FRIDAY). I agree that Wilder’s glorious late films have a visual elegance that surpasses even some of his most famous works.

    I think you define it very well, in almost Bazinian terms: Wilder’s style gives one an architecture in which to reside. Sometimes this is literally true. I was talking to someone just yesterday about how today’s quick editing gives the viewer only the sketch of a place. Meaning that Jack Fisk’s work in TREE OF LIFE is obscured to some extent, and Henry Bumstead’s work in THE FRONT PAGE isn’t.

  • Gregg Rickman

    There’ve been many good comments on this thread. I particularly liked Brian’s wise words on mise en scene and associational editing at 10:06 pm above. As a noncommunicate with its divine mysteries, I am perforce neutral on TREE OF LIFE. I’ve liked all of Malick’s previous films to a greater or lesser degree, so expect to like this one. As a rule, the more I’ve seen his films the more I’ve liked them. The film’s critics may well have valid points, but I must however particularly object to Sam Wasson’s attack on the film (which Peter Tonguette praised at 11:03 pm and which can be found at Wasson’s essay is just the sort of smart aleck writing that newspaper editors love, a clever-clever attack on Malick as a human being and not criticism of him as a filmmaker (a valid pursuit others have provided here). I had dismissed the piece upon reading it, drawn to it by a Movie City News blurb saying that it addressed Malick and the community; but its comments about Malick and educational philosophy, Malick and the wider world, don’t scan. I defy anyone to make sense of his last paragraph.

    I say this with some sorrow, for when tracking Wasson’s piece down after being reminded of it by Tonguette, I discovered that Wasson was not some hack Village Voice Media scribe, but the author of a useful and interesting book on Blake Edwards (“A Splurch in the Kisser”) as well as proprietor of a blog with some funny and interesting writing in it (as well as an inane swipe at our host in his July 5, 2010 post on Chaplin vs. Keaton).

    As a path out of the more-heat-than-light phase of this discussion, I’d be interested in anyone’s comments on the following TREE OF LIFE-related issues. Some years ago Robert C. Allen authored a piece entitled “William Fox Presents SUNRISE.” It’s been a while since I read it, but in his essay Allen attempted to place Murnau’s very self-conscious masterpiece in the industrial context of late silent Hollywood. Murnau and Malick are occasionally compared as nature-loving pantheist cineastes, and there’s certainly a throughline from, say, CITY GIRL to DAYS OF HEAVEN. I offer free of charge to anyone interested in actually writing the essay the title “Rupert Murdoch Presents THE TREE OF LIFE.” Your brief will be address the cultural oddity of what is clearly a highly personal attempt to create a work of pure filmic beauty being presented as a paying proposition by 20th Century Fox (owned by Satan Himself) at this point in our collective cultural decline. To be sure, plenty of artistic masterpieces over the centuries have been made possible thanks to the workings of less than pure hands (hey there Sistine Chapel), but the (possible) contradiction of Malick’s film being made with Murdoch’s money strikes this auditor as worth a comment. Is indeed Brother Terrence preaching anti-communitarian quiescence? (I think Wasson may be making that charge, but as I say, I can’t be sure.) Maybe there’s no contradiction at all between Fox News and Malick’s Jungian jungle.

    As a related topic of discussion, picture this: the charge of kitsch has been directed against TREE OF LIFE. Yet we all know that similar complaints were made about SUNRISE (and other Murnau films), back in the day, by critics on the level of Bunuel. Both Murnau and Malick are (and I speak seriously here) film artists attempting masterpieces. To do so, they are willing to risk being ridiculous. To that end they offer up galaxies, I gather, and dinosaurs (really???), or in Murnau’s case the fluttering angels of the reunited lovers’ walk through the city. So to defend either artist, one must be willing (I suggest, provisionally) to defend what at first glance may be pure absurdity. And as a viewer who’s willing to defend the endings of such disparate films as LUCKY STAR and FIRE WALK WITH ME, I can see going that way with this picture. On the other hand, even the title “the tree of life” reminds me, shudderingly, of Aronofsky’s THE FOUNTAIN. So we shall see. I live in hope.

  • Somehow, I see, I garbled my next-to-last sentence in my earlier post in response to Glenn Kenny. If it isn’t obvious, I meant to say that I don’t think I’m the first observer of TREE OF LIFE to find the ’50s section to be rather generic, as opposed to the autobiographical specificity of James Bridges’s great SEPTEMBER 30, 1955. Anyway…

  • D R

    “So, so many contemporary movies are made with the “lack of definition” (in photography, in editing) that Gordon Willis referred to, even if few of them are as acclaimed as a new Terrence Malick film.”

    One thing TREE OF LIFE ain’t is typical of contemporary movies. Not in the least–this is not the whiplash anti-geography of Michael Bay. “Definition” is, of course, a fluid term–for example, I found the use of light in TREE OF LIFE, particularly the startling use of practical sources in the night scenes during the ’50s sequence, to be both highly specific and highly unusual. Light sources often seemed to move within the frame, as though shifting with memory. But then, I also had little trouble seeing Jack Fisk’s sets, or certain of Malick’s uncanny details (a man’s seizure, a neighbor’s nightgown) in what’s been called here a generic stretch.

    How much here boils down to taste? Certainly, for me, for something generic and unspecific and ill-defined, I would be fine pointing to Tygh Runyan’s blank, depressingly wooden lead performance in ROAD TO NOWHERE–his eyes looking all the more empty next to Sossamon’s, which were at least expressive. Honestly, the only thing Runyan convinced me of was that Hellman made a tragic casting error. (I do think Hellman is a fine, sometimes great, director, but I don’t see an exceptional touch with actors.) Furthermore, were the sets/locations of ROAD TO NOWHERE obscured by the photography? Couldn’t tell you–it was an unholy mix of rigidity and blankness. The whole affair struck me as rather airless–good ideas constantly being smothered, or just muffled.

    And yes, the Wasson piece is…terrible.

  • A couple graphs from the review I wrote a few weeks ago that I feel are relevant to the conversation…

    “I’ve seen many compare this work to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but I honestly feel this could not be any more inappropriate. Indeed, I’m not sure any two filmmakers are more divergent than Kubrick and Malick. Kubrick’s cold, calculating, and meticulously organized films are contrasted by Malick’s constant philosophizing (many will attack the breathless narration of “Tree”, with lines like “mother, father, always you wrestle inside me”, but I found them perfectly honest in capturing the racing and ponderous demeanor of a psychologically conflicted mind) and his openness to improvisation (for example, the amazingly free form cinematography.) Honestly, while Kubrick’s work (particularly “2001”) felt planned out to every last second, Malick is moving closer and closer to something that feels like a “stream-of-consciousness” cinema, a form I felt appeared in “The Thin Red Line” and continued into “The New World”….Malick’s editing is equally singular, like a combination of silent film techniques (his love for Murnau and particularly “City Girl” has shown up in every film he’s made, in my opinion) with more modern ideas (the family sequences are built on jump cuts, while the “creation” sequences are purely experimental.) The way he transitions and repeats images brings to mind the earliest masters of filmmaking: such concepts as disconnected as violence among dinosaurs and human patricide are linked through similar visuals; Malick is always putting your mind to work with these connotations. The family sequences are cut elliptically and equally ambiguously; voiceover emphasized over dialogue and emotion emphasized over action. Malick has created his own film language, and it has finally allowed him the freedom needed to create a truly daring work of cinema, unlike anything we’ve experienced before.”

    If you don’t like Malick’s disregard of narrative, that’s fine. But why even see his films? Narrative is an afterthought at best in “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven”, yet some are acting as if Malick has gone from some dense storyteller to an avant-gardist… to me the difference between the early and recent work is far more narrow. And that also applies to the open and literal spirituality so many are decrying with “The Tree of Life”…. how is his vision of the afterlife any more kitschy or out-of-place than the Biblical lotus plague that ends “Days of Heaven”? Malick is after his own style here, its certainly not for everyone. But I hardly see how “Tree” is wildly divergent from his past work, as some seem to be implying. As with Kubrick, I also find many of these comparisons quite pointless – what is the connection between Malick and Allen? Why must all films be seen in light of other films, and with such random taste-based comparisons? Malick’s philosophy-based cinema could not be more different than Allen’s cinema, or Godard’s cinema. And to compare Malick’s “overediting” to the overuse of coverage in Hollywood films, you can’t really be serious about that. Their goals could not be more different.

  • Jake, I completely agree with you that Malick is after something quite different than Tony Scott or Michael Bay, and I continue to admire his ambitions, which seem more and more valuable in the debased context of current Hollywood. But I can’t agree that “Malick has created his own film language.” He’s drawing not just on Murnau but on a whole tradition of “stream of consciousness” filmmaking that began with the avant-gardists of the 1950s, and I really would encourage you to investigate the work of Stan Brakhage in particular. There is an excellent edition of his work available from the Criterion Collection.

    Why compare films to other films? Because taste is developed through broad-based knowledge and experience, and film history is always a question of context and continuity within a greater whole. No man is an island, not even Terrence Malick.

  • By his own film language, I am referring to the way he willfully weaves the narrative and character based story of the family in Texas with abstract and experimental philosophical asides. I’m familiar with Brakhage (I’m no expert, but I’ve works from him both on the experimental and documentary side of things) and I certainly agree with you, the influence is there. But if there is a Brakhage film, or a work by another filmmaker, that has so freely mixed the narrative and the experimental, all while staying somewhat within the tenents of commercial cinema (at least to the point where it can play in 1000 screens); than I am simply ignorant to it. That’s what I meant by a new film language.

    I understand and agree that comparison is always important. But why talk about Allen? Because Gordon Willis shot “Interiors”, and we’re speaking in context of a quote from him? I saw no connection between Malick and Allen when it was brought up, and none still. I think it’s unfair to say “well, I didn’t like Tree of Life, because it wasn’t as well done as this totally different and off-topic film”. And I also think its unfair to look at the film in terms of critical reception. I’d be interested in a discussion of Malick’s editing vs. Godard’s editing, but instead we speak of how critics recieved “Socialism” (a film never even really released in the US, much less on the level of “Tree”, and thus a film recieved by an entirely different set of critics) against how they recieved “Tree”. Films of this nature always take years to find critical appreciation, such a discussion seems almost overearnest before a year or two has passed, and everyone has digested. This is an ambitious-as-hell film, and to simply look at it in context of other “great” works with no comparitive tissue offered seems to me like simply minimizing the innovative touches Malick has laid out with his form.

  • Barry Putterman

    I don’t know Jake. BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN looked like pretty straightforward narratives to me, and “dense storytelling” is one of the first phrases I would use to describe THE THIN RED LINE. I was going to say that if we should look at THE TREE OF LIFE in the context of the avant-garde, then what about Dave’s earlier comments in relation to Brakhage. But I see that he has already re-enforced that connection. And, after all, this is HIS site.

    But in all this here Malick talk, aren’t we all forgetting LANTON MILLS? Which, in some ways, is my favorite of his films. If only for Harry Dean Stanton’s transcendent dying words. I only hope that Robert Keith was there to take note.

  • Jake, I used THE MAN IN THE MOON and INTERIORS as examples of films that do things that TREE OF LIFE does not. My point in bringing them up is that I wish TREE OF LIFE did some of those things. I also brought up Malick’s own DAYS OF HEAVEN in this context, which no one has really addressed; in terms of the editing style, it looks like the work of another director, and the work of Almendros and Wexler is not defined by swirling Steadicam shots and extreme close-ups, either. There is a break with classical filmmaking, and what takes it place I do not find compelling. Clearly I’m in the minority, but I hope this explains my logic in raising other, seemingly unrelated films.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alas, I continue to remain about half a step behind the curve in this discussion.

    Jake, the connection was made to INTERIORS by Peter Tonguette way back at the beginning of this thread with a long description of how the Maureen Stapleton character was introduced into that film. I didn’t quite see how such related to Malick either, but it was a concrete argument.

    Kubrick also isn’t the first person to come to mind when I think of Malick, although they both could be accused of having an over-controlled compositional sense. I will say that a person whom I greatly admire and who is a Kubrick enthusiast once gave me the same line of reasoning which you and Adrian are using for Malick. That is, that his films are always initially received with hostility and only over time are they appreciated for the works of art that they are. I’m perfectly happy to wait many more weeks to see THE TREE OF LIFE and many more years to offer any assessment of it. But, I’ve got to to tell you, those Kubrick films looked pretty bad to me when I first saw them, and they still look pretty bad to me today

  • Dan Callahan

    Peter, I also admire Woody Allen’s “Interiors,” and that’s never been a popular position (maybe tastes have changed on it at this point?) You describe the introduction of the Maureen Stapleton character perfectly, so that I can see it again in my head. It’s very effective. Part of its pleasure, I think, is that it’s so obvious, so schematic, yet there’s a kind of mystery to the images and to the interplay between these people. I don’t think this effect is all that far, emotionally if not technically, from what Malick has achieved in “The Tree of Life.” Allen and Malick are both dealing with primal family material, in radically different ways, and for me, they both achieve their goals.

    I love long takes. They aren’t used much today, unfortunately. I can understand you pining for some kind of return to that classical tradition, for I do a lot of pining for it myself. I also found Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” a maddening experience because it was like reading a novel that had no paragraph breaks. Cuts are overused now, but we need them. It’s how you cut that’s important.

    The reach back into the more recent past to compare Malick’s editing style to Nicolas Roeg, or something like Richard Lester’s “Petulia,” is interesting. The impression I have of that fragmented late ’60s/early 70s style is that it was aggressive in a way that felt insecure, or grasping. Whereas Malick’s film flows like a river, smoothly. I didn’t feel the cuts, like I feel them in a Roeg or Lester film. They aren’t hard cuts. Much of the “associative” editing from the Roeg/Lester years lacked fluidity, lyricism. It was clunky.

    What you’ve criticized about “Tree” is the very thing I find bracing about it; the lack of conventional “exposition,” which is a negative thing if you are even able to identify it as exposition. I love “Interiors,” but the things that it was criticized for in its time are still there: the clunkiness of the symbolism, Stapleton wearing a red dress in the midst of all the WASP beige. These are conventions, and they are theater conventions, and they are bad, but Allen moves past that because of his editing, his cinematography, and the quality of the performances.

    Fiona Shaw is a major theater actress who even on stage from a great distance often does way, way too much with her face and body. It’s a problem with her, even at her best. And I for one was relieved that Malick was able to keep her in check (I counted about 1 1/2 of her usual facial grimaces, dialed back).

    “The Great Santini”? That’s exactly what “The Tree of Life” avoids, that kind of self-pity and “characterization.” That kind of bad theater. Perhaps what I’m trying to say with all this is that Malick on this thread is being held not just to a long take film model (Preminger, Cukor, many others) but to a well-made play model, too. And I think that’s the wrong track to go down.

  • Dan, from one point of view “TofL” is one long exercise in self-pity bordering on solipsism, in which the creation of the universe is portrayed as nothing more than a build-up to the exquisite suffering expressed by Sean Penn’s constipated expression as he wanders the office canyons of whatever city that is. The film indeed largely avoids “characterization” (that’s a bad thing, all of a sudden?) but not without trying to establish Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as characters in a standard psychological drama. As Dan Clinton pointed out with his quote from de Tocqueville, it’s in the leap from autobiographical specifics (the two scenes that held some conviction to me were the boy’s investigation of the neighbor’s bedroom and the father’s return from a business trip, both rendered with evocative, sensual detail) to Jungian archetypes that the family drama turns into kitsch a la Hermann Sudermann (whose abstractions of “The Man” and “The Wife” were redeemed as wonderfully vivid figures by Murnau’s direction in “Sunrise”).

  • Dan C., I appreciate your enthusiasm for INTERIORS, and your insightful thoughts on it.

    I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think you’re wrong in intuiting that I’m pushing for a “well-made play model.” I think of Bazin again, who wrote that there is “a hundred times more cinema, and better cinema at that, in one fixed shot in THE LITTLE FOXES or MACBETH than in all the exterior travelling shots, in all the natural settings, in all the geographical exoticism, in all the shots of the reverse side of the set, by means of which up to now the screen has ingeniously attempted to make us forget the stage.”

    What can I say? As the years have gone on, I find myself more and more sympathetic to this perspective.

    I love Richard Lester’s films, including the early ones which really experimented with editing, but I actually think his style matured. On the set of the MUSKETEERS films, Charlton Heston wrote in his diary of “how sure of his setups and blockings” Lester was – this is from Yule’s biography of Lester. The editing style in, say, JUGGERNAUT is quite different from THE KNACK, though equally impressive, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Dan Callahan

    I think that “characterization,” like exposition, is just fine as long as the seams don’t show too baldly. And I don’t see anything wrong with using archetypes of Father and Mother in “The Tree of Life,” like The Man and The Wife in “Sunrise.” The filmmaker who is working without the net of characterization, exposition, etc. is under greater pressure, and the potential rewards and potential pitfalls are exponentially greater, too.

    I am not a partisan of either “The Thin Red Line” or “The New World.” But this family story in “Tree” worked for me because it seemed very specific, and evocative. I trusted the intuition of the editing and images. It is intuitive. And so it isn’t all that surprising to me that it doesn’t work for some people, including many writers I hold in the highest esteem, like Dave, Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and you too, Peter. But I haven’t read any negative evaluation of the film that has made me re-think or re-consider my own position on it yet.

    I would like to hear a bit more from Jonathan about his own personal reaction to it as related to his own childhood; that intrigues me. I really do love it, and I’m serious about wanting to read anything that might illuminate it for me. But I don’t think we’ll get there if we’re moving towards some position that Malick just doesn’t live up to the standard of William Wyler or Fred Zinnemann, or what have you. For Dave, he finds Malick lacking against Murnau and “Sunrise,” and that’s the highest possible standard you can be judged against as a filmmaker. If we’re going to judge Malick and find him lacking here, let’s hold him to this standard of Renoir, of Ophuls, of Bresson, of the very best. He’s a controversial figure, to put it mildly, and I think we’re at a particularly crucial—and tricky–moment when it comes to judging him, and this particular film. Everything with him seems to be in flux. That’s what I loved in this latest movie, but that seems to be the main thing about it that a lot of people can’t stand.

  • @Barry If you consider “Badlands” and “Days” to be straightforward narratives, I’d like to know what that makes the average Hollywood film. Both films are far more interested in cinematography, philosophy (through the eyes of young people), and emotion than they are in narrative (which, in one case, is the most basic distillation of ‘lovers on the run’ possible, and in the other, a love triangle with essentially every formative moment deleted). As for “Thin Red Line”, its certainly dense, but not so much in storytelling. There’s characters and emotions everywhere, to the point where you can’t detirmine where the VO comes from, but at the same time there’s no connecting line, no overriding plot for an audience to chew on. It’s certainly a lot of things goin’ on in that 180 minutes, but it’s hardly “Godfather II” in terms of being a cohesive story/narrative. To me it’s far closer to the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ aesthetic I’ve tagged “Tree” as having, chrnoicling a series of events that don’t share much past certain characters and emotions. I’m not saying Malick is Brakhage as far as disposing of narrative goes, but it’s certainly not one of his chief concerns. While that may become more and more clear with time, I definitely think you can see it in “Badlands”, too. And I think Malick’s mise-en-scene is the opposite of Kubrick’s controlled and centered approach – whether it is or not, his aim always seems to be finding something that feels improvisational, as if it was never blocked out.

    @Peter But the question I would ask is why would you want or expect Malick to do things like Allen or Mulligan? He’s a totally different filmmaker and nothing he’s ever done has indicated that he’s interested in that type of cinema. The cinematographers, and thus the style of the photography, may change but his interests stay the same. Watching “Days” very recently, I think its about as far removed from ‘classical filmmaking’ as he could get at that time. The editing may not be quite as quick as “Tree”, but its quite similar in its fragmentation, particularly in the way it cuts around time and space without warning. So I geuss I’m mainly just wondering if you actually went in expecting something like Allen, or if thats simply the filmmaker you wish Malick was.

    And @Dave, The view of the film being “a build up to Sean Penn’s suffering” seems over-simplified to me, almost insulting. That is not his character’s resolution, that’s simply where we meet him, so I don’t see how the film is a build up to that. His character ends up finding enlightenment in the religious wonder of the world, whether you take the vision of the afterlight literally or not. So, if anything (and I’m not sure I agree with this interpretation, either) it would be more like the creation of the universe as a build up to the ability of a man to comprehend and appreciate its wonder. The Book of Job here is a hugely important text, where God essentially explains the suffering of man by saying “I created the universe. Don’t question me.” The point is not the suffering, but the understanding that follows it. As for the Jungian archetypes, this is a hugely personal film. Do you want Malick to alter the characterization of a character based on his own father because its too much of a cliche? I see a lot of my father in that character, and I’m sure many do too. Do you find the character unbelievable, or simply overused in drama?

  • Barry Putterman

    Jake, you could just as easily say that John Ford and Josef von Sternberg made films which were more interested in cinematography, philosophy and emotion than they were with narrative. And yet they made pretty straightforward narrative films in the same way that BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN are. You seem to want to insist on a one to one equation between straightforward narrative and average Hollywood film without consideration of all of the myriad forms which narrative can embody. And frankly, if your case for Malick is dependent on a transcendence of narrative, I think that you are going to tie yourself up in all kinds of unnecessary knots in making it and lose some of the obvious pleasures of his films in the process.

    And, along the same lines, Malick doesn’t have to be the actual opposite of Kubrick in order to be a much better filmmaker. I can’t offhand recall any of the improvisational elements in his compositions in BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN which attract you. But I’m certainly open to suggestion along those lines.

  • What films are you thinking about re: Ford and Sternberg? I can’t profess as to have seen every one of their films, and while I see your point in specific scenes (sections of “Yellow Ribbon”, of course, come to mind), I can’t think of a single film of theirs that, on the whole, is less straightforward than Malick’s early work. My case for Malick is not at all dependent on him being non-narrative, that’s simply where the discussion was headed, and I found it interesting anyone expected him to be interested in narrative in the first place, considering his earlier work. As for Kubrick, I don’t think nor did I ever say that their divergent aesthetics made one better than the other. For the sake of full disclosure, I prefer Kubrick, and probably find “Barry Lyndon” to be my favorite film ever made. I simply found it interesting that Kubrick (the secrecy) and “2001” (the style) have become the main talking points as comparisons for “Tree”, as I find them so different. And finally, as for improvisational compositions, just off the top of my head I was thinking things like Martin Sheen walking along with the moon in “Badlands” (which a recent and wonderful “Oral History” article confirmed as being something Malick came up with on the spot), the various close ups of bugs that intercut within “Days”, or (also in “Days”) the sequence wherein everyone is running around with circus performers. Certainly the shots are static when compared to the later work, but I think that difference arises in the cinematographer and in the technological realities of today, rather than in Malick’s artistic aims.

  • Alex

    Hermann Sudermann’s abstractions do weigh pretty heavily on “Sunrise,” not only the “The Man” and “The Wife” one but the Gemeinschaft/Gessellschaft differentiation of country and city and even, as I recall, a certain nationality-less abstractness of each, so much so I think I now prefer “Country Girl” (despite “Sunrise” ‘s many wonders).

    However, I see little or no such abstractness in TofL’s quotidian ’50s family material. Perhaps, the extreme specificity of the characters can lead some to impose stereotypical abstractions on characters so concrete and subtle as to lack readily accessible novelistic sorts of identities — as opposed to utterly vivid, second-to-second, poetry-like revelations of experience.

    The abstractness of TofL’s cosmic stuff is another story, and a seriously under articulated one compared, say, to the perfectly defined abstractions of “2001” (the clear technology motifs from bone to obelisk to Hall; the masterful internal organization of sequences (the visual and musical waltz-centered organization of the first happy visit to the space station),

    The abstractness of TofL’s cosmic stuff is another story, and a seriously underarticulated one compared, say, to the perfectly defined abstractions of “2001” (the clear technology motifs from bone to obseisk to Hall; the masterful internal organization of sequences (e.g., the visual and musical waltz-centered organization of the first happy visi to the space station).

  • D R

    Still trying to figure out why people are talking about INTERIORS.

  • Barry Putterman

    Well Jake, it would appear that we’ve reached an impasse. If THE SCARLET EMPRESS is a straightforward narrative film for you and BADLANDS isn’t, the we will just have to leave it at that. By the way, that Martin Sheen and the moon scene you mentioned sounds very Fordian to me.

  • The pro-LIFErs among us are set to get a big boost from Kent Jones’ utterly brilliant article honouring the film coming up (I assume) in FILM COMMENT … Read it and weep, o disbelievers !

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Adrian –

    Apart from you, this is mainly a civilized, informative discussion between people with different opinions. Then you come along with the kind of comment that, though it contains useful information, makes I suspect people on both sides of this discussion with you’d just go away and leave us alone.

  • Zoran S

    I’ve loved all of Malick’s films, but I have to share my disappointment with Tree of Life. I was mostly disengaged with the scenes of domestic life. They were beautifully shot but they felt ordinary in the wrong way. Honestly, it all seemed like a lot of New Age goo (or hokey pantheism) to me each time I thought about the relationship between the domestic and the cosmic that Malick presents. By the end, I was wishing I was watching a print of a Tarkovsky film instead.

  • Barry Putterman

    That’s odd. Somewhere I had gotten the impression that it was going to take years before a definitive impression of this film emerged, Oh well, as that great philosopher Yogi Berra once said; “It gets late early out there.”

  • Hey Tom, I was just letting people here know that a respected member of the group has written has written positively about TREE OF LIFE, and I added a bit of humour at the end. I’m glad you feel you are able to speak for everybody else here in telling me to ‘go away and leave you alone’.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    It came across as provocative and somewhat incendiary, and coming after your aggressive posts which have inaccurately characterized Dave’s and others’ positions it didn’t seem funny.

    And I said I suspect that others’ feel the same way, not that I am their spokesman.

    You must be excited though – The Tree of Life opens in your country in a couple weeks.

  • “Because taste is developed through broad-based knowledge and experience, and film history is always a question of context and continuity within a greater whole. ”

    Agreed, Dave, but hell, try telling Dan Kois that. Maybe he’ll listen to YOU, what with you having the same initials and whatnot. But I doubt it.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. As you were.

  • Barry Putterman

    Adrian, Kent Jones is certainly respected. But my understanding is that he is no longer a member of this group.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Glenn –
    I just noticed your comments on your blog about music in Malick and in The Tree of Life in general. Maybe it was my overall disappointed reaction to the film, but for me the music was not successfully integrated and, unlike Camille Saint-Saens in Days of Heaven, came across as bombastic and lending unwarranted importance to scenes. Smetena’s The Moldau at an early age (at least the early parts, the ones used in the film) had a big impact on me, but I just felt its use in Tree of bombastic and over the top.
    I really am hoping to find some writing(s) on the film that can convince me that perhaps I missed something – again, Days of Heaven remains for me a masterpiece. But I am still searching for something to convince me to maybe give the film another try. Otherwise, seeing it again and having the same reaction will be too painful an experience.

  • Dan Clinton

    I noticed a piece of trivia that might not be entirely uninteresting to Malick’s admirers and apostates here.

    It turns out the book that the Mother reads to her children in Tree of Life, featuring the print of a coiled python, is the same one that Linda peruses in Days of Heaven, an edition of The Jungle Book illustrated by Edward Detmold. What looks like the previous page in the film, the image of a scowling maternal monkey with her young, is in fact in another book, Detmold’s Aesop. I would believe that some volume contains both prints, but Malick may also have switched tomes between shots or even condensed two scenes of reading during editing. If that’s not already enough bibliomancy, then the print of a praying mantis that scrolls past the lens is Detmold yet again, from Fabre’s Books of Insects.

    The next one of you guys who ends up interviewing Terrence Malick ought to ask him why he is so fond of this particular illustrator.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Thanks to all who have commented on the Murnau-Malick connection (Jake, Dave, Alex). Jake comments on how Malick’s “love for Murnau and particularly CITY GIRL has shown up in every film he’s made, in my opinion.” I got to wondering… where exactly did Malick see CITY GIRL? I saw it for the first time at the L.A. film festival Filmex in (some online research reveals) 1978. As I understood it at the time it was the first time the film had been screened since 1930. While it was quite possible Malick was in the audience that year, he had already completed his first two features by that point. Of course as an AFI fellow he might have been privy to an archival screening prior to the beginning of his filmmaking career… or it is possible that he and Murnau enjoyed certain elective affinities that encouraged a shared love for lyrical landscapes?

    Regarding another name that’s come up in this discussion a couple of times, and my “Rupert Murdoch Presents THE TREE OF LIFE” inquiry, Malick may have replaced Stanley Kubrick as the prized, precious and collectible objet d’art of certain wealthy patrons in the studio world. While very different, Kubrick and now Malick have been taken on and allowed to make their highly personal, idiosyncratic, and artistically ambitious films at roughly 5-10 year intervals. A few other directors have also been granted this freedom at various times in the post-1975 era (that’s how Woody Allen got to make INTERIORS, to reference another film that’s come up on this thread) but unlike Allen, Kubrick and Malick work at a very deliberate pace. Meanwhile, equally worthy artists (such as, say, Monte Hellman) go decades without being able to complete their equally worthy projects, and the general health of American cinema decays. All of this led, perhaps, to a great deal of hostility towards Kubrick and leads today to similar hostility to Malick, above and beyond the virtues and merits of the works themselves. Thus someone (David Thomson?) referred to Kubrick’s “evacuation of another film” sometime in the 1980s or ‘90s. Malick’s critics on this site do NOT demonstrate this spirit, but I sense that rationale behind attacks on TREE OF LIFE from other sources (Wasson, or Richard Schickel, who starts off in a piece at by calling HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR a “scam” and goes on from there to denounce what he calls “Terrence Malick Syndrome.”)

    I say this as someone who, on the whole, isn’t a Kubrick fan, but who is, on the whole, “in love with Malick, or the idea of him” (Wasson). (I also have liked some of Schickel’s work over the decades, but not this.)

    To reiterate, Dave Kehr’s, Peter Tonguette’s, and others’ criticisms of THE TREE OF LIFE here are grounded in close engagement with the actual film, and not some fuzzed idea of the director. It is nice to see, however, how TREE inspires some of its viewers. Thanks to Movie City News, which alerted me to Sam Wasson’s piece, I also found a veritable monograph on Malick, inspired by his new film, by a young writer named Niles Schwartz. It’s pretty impressive:

    Barry, where did you see LANTON MILLS?

  • Alex

    Adrian, I may be wrong, but I don’t think anyone was disengaged from your contribution by anything you wrote about TofL per se. Rather, some may have been miffed by you writing this in a paragraph starting with “Dave”: “Time is going to prove you wrong! – just as it did with DAYS OF HEAVEN.” And by you then responded to Dave K.’s “Adrian Martin, thanks for introducing the tone of personal vituperation that has so far been notably and nobly absent from this discussion. I know you aren’t familiar with my work (and would no doubt dismiss it as mere “appreciation” in any case), but I am in fact very clearly on record about “Days of Heaven,” a film I defended vigorously on its first release (the review is reprinted in my new book)” with, {Dave, with all due respect, you’re nuts! I wasn’t saying YOU personally disliked DAYS OF HEAVEN in 1978.” (Sure you very plausibly hadn’t MEANT to say Dave K. “ personally disliked DAYS OF HEAVEN in 1978”….)

    Barry, What’s the point of responding to Adrian’s applauding notice for Kent Jones’ piece on TofL by opining that Kent “ is no longer a member of this group”?

    Gregg Rickman, But, hey, isn’t Schickel one of our most distinguished Spielophiles?

  • Adrian

    Alex, the ‘you’ from my post that you quote did not refer to Dave specifically or personally; it clearly referred to a general bunch of folk dissin’ TREE OF LIFE, and suggested they could maybe learn something from the history of DAYS OF HEAVEN’s reception and re-evaluation. Or maybe not, as the case may be.

  • tygreg

    For what it’s worth (probably not much), I don’t entirely understand why some have taken such offense to Adrian’s remarks. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting their tone, but they seemed good-natured and humorous to me, with the “incendiary” comments clearly being made with tongue-in-cheek, even if the general points being made were sincere. I would think such attempts at levity would be welcome relief in a potentially contentious discussion such as this.

    I do wish, however, that he would expand on his thoughts on “The Tree of Life,” given his analytical strengths. I hope the response his previous remarks have gotten doesn’t discourage him from doing so.

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, I saw LANTON MILLS in a group of AFI shorts themed by their students who had gone on to make features. This was not long after BADLANDS had been released so I would say that it was approximately 1974. And I don’t recall whether I saw it during my last semesters at the University of Maryland or first ones at NYU, but probably the former.

    Alex, simply making a factual adjustment. You know, like MR. ARKADIN for MR. ARCADING.

    Adrian and others, we all have our little snits now and again Would it not be best to put it all behind us and return to the spirit of Ted Kroll?

  • Tom Brueggemann

    “a general bunch of folks dissin’ Tree of Life, and suggested they could maye learn something from the history of DAYS OF HEAVEN’s reception and re-evaluation. Or maybe not as the case may be.”

    Nice condescending tone you’ve got going there Adrian.

    You aren’t doing yourself or fans of Tree of Life any favors.

    That sort of comment has no place in this thread. It isn’t what Dave and those of us who post regularly here appreciate or support.

    Please stop it.

    I was present at creation of Days of Heaven. I know the history. I’ve seen both films. Neither you nor I know what the reaction to The Tree of Life will be decades from now. My guess is that, unlike Days of Heaven, for reasons having to do with the respective very different films, will have an evaluation below its initial praise (can we agree coming out of Cannes that it had a stronger reaction than Days of Heaven did initially?). It’s a guess. Anything you think is likewise a guess.

  • Blake Lucas

    Gregg, I’d be fairly certain that Malick saw CITY GIRL in some kind of print much earlier than you say. Filmex may have claimed its 1978 showing as the first since 1930 but I know I saw it much earlier, probably in Film Screening Cooperative at UCLA 1970-1972 but that wouldn’t have been a widely publicized public screening. I’m sure many others also saw it in that kind of situation, and as for Malick at AFI, I was around there at screenings from time to time and know they could get just about anything they wanted to see, so he was likely ahead of most.

    I think Woody Allen had the cachet to make INTERIORS because he was riding high after ANNIE HALL, and had by then earned a lot of good will with those “early funny ones.” He works steadily, always keeps to budget, has people to back whatever he wants to make because of that kind of professional discipline. He really doesn’t belong in a Kubrick/Malick comparison in that sense, though I would agree those two are well compared with each other for the reasons you say. Please note: This paragraph does not contain my personal opinion on any of these three directors or Monte Hellman or anyone else. That’s a whole other subject.

  • Given their city of residence and their ofttimes philosophical bent, I wonder if Richard Linklater and Malick now form an Austin School of Filmmaking. And I am also wondering if finally I have to watch The Fountain as a compare-and-contrast to ToL.

  • Adrian, your recollection of the reception accorded “Days of Heaven” is quite different from mine. 1978 was the first year I attended the voting meeting of the National Society of Film Critics, and I flew from Chicago to New York a day early in order to see “Days of Heaven” in 70 millimeter at one of the now-closed Third Avenue theaters. I was, obviously, knocked out by the film and was happy to join the large block of critics voting for it at the meeting the next day. It was neck and neck between “Days” and “The Deer Hunter” (which I did not care for) and the voting went through several ballots before Pauline Kael put her voting bloc behind that immortal classic “Get Out Your Handkerchiefs,” which won the best picture award and went on to the total obscurity it so richly deserves. In any case there was certainly widespread critical support for “Days,” as there had been for “Badlands,” when it first appeared. Not every movie conforms to the romantic myth of the misunderstood masterpiece, and Malick, who has enjoyed the patronage of some very powerful Hollywood figures ever since (and good for him!), is not Vincent Van Gogh.

    Perhaps am unfamiliar with Aussie humor, but your remark did seem to carry an inappropriate note of aggressiveness and self-righteousness that went down the wrong way with me. At the very least you should keep better track of your pronouns.

    Greg, I distinctly remember thinking of “Sunrise” during the night search sequence of “Days of Heaven” but I don’t recall any specific flash on “City Girl” at that first screening. Perhaps it was Malick’s subsequent remarks that made the connection. But somehow I have a recollection — perhaps a false memory — of Films, Inc. distributing “City Girl” in 16-millimeter, along with a lot of other early Fox stuff that hasn’t seen much daylight since, in the early/mid 70s.

    Whatever I write of Malick is more in sorrow than in anger. He was an idol to me when I was a young man and it has been hard to me to acknowledge his gradual loss of focus and rigor and his increasingly problematic addiction to middle-brow “big themes.” I did my best to support “The Thin Red Line” when it came out, but looking back now much of what I wrote about it seems to me like rationalization — the seeds of his destruction had already been planted and indeed taken root. He would not be the first director to let extravagant praise and unlimited budgets go to his head, and lose sight of his true strengths in the process (Kubrick, Wyler and Lean come to mind). So I very much hope that the still-untitled quickie he started shooting in January will represent his return to earth. Nothing would make me happier.

  • Blake Lucas

    “But somehow I have a recollection — perhaps a false memory — of Films, Inc. distributing “City Girl” in 16-millimeter, along with a lot of other early Fox stuff that hasn’t seen much daylight since, in the early/mid 70s.”

    I’m sure that’s right, and accounts for Film Screening Cooperative showing we had, which I remember was in 16 (have seen it in 35 but not until later–maybe the Filmex screening). In the period late 60s-early 70s, early Fox seemed to emerge in an almost archeological manner and at UCLA we also showed a lot of early 30s Fords people hadn’t seen in years (the Will Rogers movies and PILGRIMAGE among these). There were some 35 prints then–when DGA premiered Bogdanovich’s DIRECTED BY JOHN FORD, they ran a beautiful 35 of PILGRIMAGE afterward, but I’ve heard that sometime after that, this print and other 35s that had been made were absurdly destroyed. I don’t know the details of this history, and if I’m altogether wrong, someone please reply with any corrections. But I just can’t understand how anything would be lovingly restored after years of neglect and then go that route. I don’t believe this would happen now at Fox, or a lot of other places where responsible and caring people are now in charge.

  • Not so fast, there, Mr. Kehr. “Get Out Your Handkerchiefs” is still considered by a cranky few to be a pretty funsy little semi-cheeky, semi-depressive sex non-romp (EXACTLY the sorta thing that’d be catnip to Our Lady, come to think of it). Look at that starring cast: the still ultry-sultry G. Depardieu, pouty second-line-Adjani Carole Laure, and poor old Patrick Dewaere. I’m willing to bet the film will be the fulcrum on which some Eager Young Space Cadet Cinephile will pull up a full-fledged Bertrand Blier critical revival. Something about his “cinema of transgression” or some such. 10 bucks says it’ll happen before 2017. AT LEAST! Does Criterion still hold the license for any of that stuff? I smell Blu-ray!

  • Yann Heckmann

    Gregg, Kubrick’s films after Paths of Glory performed rather well at the box-office, some of them exceptionally well, so rather than being an art-house curiosity surviving on patronage, he made his financial backers a whole lot of money.

  • Richard T. Jameson

    Just to confirm, yes, City Girl was available from Films Inc. as part of their glorious “Rediscovering the American Cinema” push in the early Seventies. I used it in film classes and our Seattle Film Society showed it.

  • Blake Lucas

    I will support Glenn on this. Dave, I’m not even sure why you felt the need to deride “Get Out Your Handkerchiefs” (and I assume this extends to Blier generally) in the way you did. He wasn’t under discussion–and you don’t actually say a thing about any of his films above, other than to presume “Handkerchiefs” no longer has an articulate critical defender on the face of the earth.

    I’m probably more inclined to agree with you about most films and filmmakers most of the time than with most other critics, and it’s openly painful to somehow find myself aligned here with that “Pauline Kael voting block” to which you refer, but I will acknowledge that in 1978 I liked “Handkerchiefs” best of those three films, closely followed by “The Deer Hunter,” and liked “Days of Heaven” too, if more ambivalently.

    But does it matter what film wins any Critics Award? Any more than say an Academy Award? Given that there are apparent “voting blocks” in those groups too, it seems like it shouldn’t matter. It’s kind of like lists. Anyone see the “Best Last Film List” in recent Film Comment. I support many of the choices they made, and my own first choice (“Gertrud”) at least ranked second behind a well-considered first choice (“L’Argent”). But only something like ten critics voted in this, and inevitably it was skewed kind of strangely. Films that for me should have easily made the list or ranked much higher were not there while others were questionable. One had to choke down “7 Women” falling in way lower than “Eyes Wide Shut” for example, but I know that only reflects how I would have voted.

    As for Bertrand Blier, I find his often lightly and straightforwardly expressed outrageousness supported by an elegant mise en scene in his best films (“Beau Pere” most of all–and I’ve written about that one at length). He doesn’t get the kind of releases he did in the days of “Handkerchiefs” and has been kind of hard to keep up with–so I’m not even sure how he’d rank with me for his whole career–but rediscovery of the kind Glenn talks about hardly seems off the table, and even if it was just a witty phrase from Glenn, “cinema of transgression” works pretty well for him.

    Just a reminder too, Dave, that you support many directors who not only NEVER won any awards but are still obscure many years after making their films, and I know you would never say that obscurity is “richly deserved.”

    What was the best film of 1978? It could be argued that it was one of those three in contention but it could be something else too, depending on how any thoughtful viewer sees the films and what he or she sees in them. Though WHEN MOVIES MATTERED has it in 1979, “In a Year with 13 Moons” was actually 1978 and I would have voted for that and still would without even having to think twice about it. I say that after watching it again as one of my two birthday movies just a few weeks ago along with “Bend of the River” (another movie that won no awards by the way).

  • Barry Putterman

    And William A. Seiter never got a dinner!

    Wow, it’s Bertrand Blier mania on the Dave Kehr site! I must admit that I thought that GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS was pretty funny back in 78. And I remember some good moments from some of the other films, few of whose titles I can recall. His unreleased in the U.S. films do seem to pop up on a semi regular bases on France TV5.

    So, by all means, let’s have a Blier box. And, if that sells well, we can move on to a Lena Wertmuller box.

  • Oh, Blake and Glenn– here we are again, running down another sidetrack. I wasn’t making any point whatever about Bertrand Blier or the validity of awards, but simply trying to point out to Adrian that the romantic mythology with which he has surround “Days of Heaven” is not accurate, and that the film did enjoy substantial critical support at the time of its release. I liked “Beau Pere,” too, though not so much “Handkerchiefs.” So shoot me for trying to tell a funny story (I’ll never forget the way Pauline’s little, lilting voice piped up from the back of the room when “Handkerchiefs” finally emerged as the winner: “Oh, good!”)

    “In a Year with 13 Moons” was released in Chicago in 1979, which is how I calculated my ten best list in those days, being reluctant to rank films I had not been given the opportunity to see.

  • jbryant

    Just to keep the side track on track for another moment: Though I saw GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS during its theatrical run (which amazingly extended to Evansville, Indiana back when they had an art house), I admit I don’t remember it too well. But I’ve liked many a Blier since (BUFFET FROID, MENAGE, MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL, MON HOMME, GOING PLACES, the aforementioned BEAU PERE) and would likely scrimp and save for a box set.

    My 3-way battle for Best of ’78 would probably be between Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, Schepisi’s THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH and Sautet’s A SIMPLE STORY. I haven’t properly grappled with Malick much past BADLANDS, which is one of my favorite American films. Saw DAYS and TRL once each; still haven’t tried THE NEW WORLD, and TREE hasn’t opened here yet.

  • Brian Dauth

    Best film of 1978 (I did not see 13 MOONS until 1979 at the New York Film Festival where I fell in love with it) — Billy Wilder’s FEDORA, of course.

    Also, who was in Pauline’s voting bloc? I adore backstage award info — I’m gay after all, and I am sure that the existence of voting blocs at film critics’ societies will be the gayest thing I hear about during gay pride month!! (And yes, I am trying to bring some light humor to this thread)