The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

Ter­rence Mal­ick is up to some­thing and one hopes the sum is bet­ter than the parts. His lat­est film, re­leased on DVD/dig­i­tal in Aus­tralia this week just weeks af­ter its US cinema re­lease, will test the pa­tience of those who pro­fessed undy­ing love to him af­ter Bad­lands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line.

Knight of Cups ap­pears to be part of an un­of­fi­cial trip­tych of ex­is­ten­tial re­la­tion­ship dra­mas that be­gan with the po­lar­is­ing The Tree of Life in 2011 and fol­lowed with the enig­matic To the Won­der (2012). Or it could be part of a four or five-film epic with this year’s Weight­less com­bin­ing with his com­ing doc­u­men­tary Voy­age of Time, or even one big film.

At least that’s what some of the ac­tors be­lieve, some of whom, in­clud­ing Cate Blanchett, Chris­tian Bale and Natalie Port­man, ap­pear in the two most re­cent films while Blanchett and Pitt nar­rate the doc­u­men­tary.

If there is a con­sol­i­da­tion, Mal­ick needs to bring at least some nar­ra­tive dis­ci­pline to it. Knight of Cups (M, Road­show, 113min, $29.95) in­dulges Mal­ick’s in­dis­ci­pline with sto­ry­telling and char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion against his painterly and philo­soph­i­cal am­bi­tion. Again. It is a two-hour me­an­der that de­liv­ers its mo­ments of beauty and clar­ity, as To the Won­der did, amid large dol­lops of pre­ten­sion and pon­der­ous­ness.

That pre­ten­sion was inherent per­haps when set­ting the film in Los An­ge­les, with a side trip to Las Ve­gas, and mak­ing the sub­ject a wan­der­ing screen­writer, Rick (Bale) who ap­pears to have noth­ing go­ing for him other than an al­lure to a stag­ger­ing num­ber of beau­ti­ful women.

Rick is lost and finds him­self bat­tling with his brother (Wes Bent­ley) and father (a strik­ing Brian Den­nehy) in in­con­gru­ous set­tings — in­clud­ing LA rooftops — be­tween star­ing sky­ward from laneways and drift­ing through the lux­ury of Los An­ge­les par­ties, re­sorts and cav­ernous of­fice foy­ers. As far as fla­neurs go, Paolo Sor­rentino walk­ing through Rome in The Great Beauty was more en­ter­tain­ing.

Six women pass through Rick’s aim­less am­ble, each in­tro­duced as a ti­tle from tarot cards (the Knight of Cups card de­picts a ro­man­tic hero fol­low­ing his emo­tions). Us­ing tarot as a fram­ing de­vice should be warn­ing enough but the leery male gaze at the beau­ti­ful, lightly drawn women (in­clud­ing Blanchett, Port­man, Imo­gen Poots and Freida Pinto) is prob­lem­atic. Mal­ick may be riff­ing on love and beauty but largely his gaze feels as con­se­quen­tial as a Play­boy shoot.

I was re­minded of Peter Green­away as the film be­gan with a nar­ra­tion from John Giel­gud and Mal­ick’s lush, wide-screen com­po­si­tion filled the screen. His lib­eral use of mu­sic by from Ed­vard Grieg, Arvo Part and Claude De­bussy el­e­vates some ba­nal vi­su­als and nar­ra­tion.

But Green­away, for all his faults, tends to use other nar­ra­tives. It’s hard to fathom what Mal­ick is up to. And, af­ter this, sadly, it’s a lit­tle harder to care.

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