Friday, 18 March 2016

KNIGHT OF CUPS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Terrence Malick's Cinematic Athletic Cup

Terrence Malick's Malodorous Gems of Wisdom

Knight of Cups (2015)
Dir. Terrence Malick
Starring: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman,
Antonio Banderas, Brian Dennehy, Freida Pinto, Imogen Poots,
Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Wes Bentley, Armin Mueller Stahl, Ben Kingsley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Athletic cups come in pretty handy. They hold onto the crown jewels for dear life, protecting them from injury, sealing them in and collecting pools of nourishing, cheese-like smegma, the nectar of the Gods. This is the grand achievement of filmmaker Terrence Malick.

With Knight of Cups, Malick's created cinema's first-ever motion picture athletic cup, encasing his sweaty, salty, malodorous gems of wisdom so they can mummify and be preserved for all time. In fact, his new film might go well beyond that of an athletic cup - it's not unlike a jar of sour pickles in a brine of horse piss. The contents ain't Kosher, but they're ripe and juicy.

Knight of Cups is the scintillating portrait of a screenwriter (Christian Bale) who spends far more time wandering the beaches, streets and garden parties of Los Angeles than actually doing any writing. He is searching, you see. But for what? For what is he searching for? When he looks up at the sky, which he does quite often, he is greeted with the voice over of God (sounding suspiciously like Ben Kingsley).

"Pieces, fragments of a man," intones the voice.

"Where did I go wrong?" asks the screenwriter. "I'll throw my life away."

"Don't go back to being dead," is the retort of portent.

The screenwriter does what any screenwriter who looks at the sky too much would do. He heads out to Sunset Boulevard and visits a psychic. She begins to do his Tarot cards, but her reading confuses him even more.

"Which way should I go?" he asks.

Well, quicker than you can say "athletic cup", the screenwriter is back on a beach. He's not alone. There are frolicking babes with him, but alas, they offer little solace. He walks away to be on his own, to do what he does so well. He broods. God knows we can all relate to this. Who needs babes when brooding is so much more satisfying?

In fact, the picture contains a few barrel-loads of Christian Bale brooding.

"Howdy Doody!
Terrence Malick is the name.
Terrence Malick is my game.
I once made great movies!

Malick also breaks the movie up into chapters based on tarot cards. You don't really need to know what the cards represent, though. Malick provides explanations for you with his visual poetry which, for the most part attempts to be simplistically obtuse in all the ways Malick's become famous for since he stopped making movies people might actually enjoy.

In the chapter entitled "The Hanged Man", the screenwriter wanders through skid row and ogles alkies. "I just wanna feel, something," he intones. With a blank face, he meets up with his brother and informs us: "I loved my brother. I hated him too." This is first rate story telling. Instead of showing us the hows and whys, Malick just has the character tell us what the conflict was (and is). We also get to meet the screenwriter's father played by Brian Dennehy. He's a ranting and raving prick, though he keeps his ire to himself in what appears to be an endless monologue directed at nobody in particular. Oh, and we see some chick playing a harp. A fucking harp!

Thanks to the aforementioned, Malick has fully explained what a Hanged Man card means.

In the chapter entitled "The Hermit", the screenwriter continues to be surrounded by babes, but tellingly, he is so alone. Luckily, Malick clears matters up for us by having a bunch of dogs dive into a pool in slow motion to retrieve balls. Luckily, they are not Christian Bale's balls. Malick has encased the Bale Crown Jewels with an athletic cup.

Malick also makes this whole business abundantly unclouded by revealing that the screenwriter is attending a seemingly endless garden party with a bunch of rich assholes diving into a pool - just like the dogs! Only there are no balls for them to retrieve.

The screenwriter has been brooding this whole time and eventually he thinks he's floating. Alone. Hence, "The Hermit" and hence, the next chapter entitled "Judgement" wherein the screenwriter's character moves considerably forward by brooding. Then again, you'd brood to if you discovered that your wife was the insufferable Cate Blanchett.

Malick astutely hired the insufferable Cate Blanchett

"Do you remember how happy we were?" Cate asks. "You became so cruel and unkind."

The aforementioned is another example of Malick brilliantly avoiding any drama by having the characters talk about past, present and future conflict. Especially poignant is a scene where the couple appears to have been arguing, but the screenwriter seeks solace by staring at some guy blowing dead leaves around. In direct contrast to all this Bale-brooding, we learn that Blanchett wanted babies, in spite of the fact that she specializes in providing palliative care to people with infectious flesh disorders/diseases like leprosy.

This is no Isle of Molokaii. 'Tis only Los Angeles, but man, leprosy runs rampant.

Blanchett pointedly accuses Bale, as they walk around endlessly, looking at everything but each other: "You didn't want to be inside our marriage or," she adds with considerable heft, "you didn't want to be outside it either."

Have I mentioned that the running time of this movie is just over two fucking hours? Hell, it could have been twice the length for all its heady hardware. Witness: The screenwriter is constantly surrounded by women, yet he broods. At several points, he finds hissef in the company of nekkid broads and yet, he broods. "That's what damnation is," he opines. "Pieces of your life never coming together."

He might be looking for love, but it's in all the wrong places - mostly like the cheesy lint collecting in his sweaty navel which, he gazes at constantly (when he's not looking up at the sky).

One of the women he avoids loving asks, "What do you want from me?" The screenwriter replies, "To weave the spell of you. To make you dream." Then, as an aside, presumably for us, the audience, he adds, "Dreams are nice."

Malick shows this to be true, not by actually visualizing it, but by having Bale say, "Nobody cares about reality anymore." He follows this up with our screenwriter having empty stage-whispered conversations in a strip club. He astutely tells one of the strippers: "You live in your own little fantasy world, but you can be anything you want to be." The stripper retorts: "You can be an asshole, a saint and God."

"There's no such thing as forever," the screenwriter asserts as proceeds to push a chick around in a shopping cart.

Then he stops to look at Palm Trees.

Ever-so briefly, you stop watching the screen to check the time.

You say to yourself in an internal voiceover: "Fuck, there's still an hour left of this shit."

Unlike the rest of the sparse audience, most of whom have long-ago staggered out of the cinema, you stay in your seat, nailing your feet to the floor. If Christ had to suffer on the Cross for Our sins, the least you can do is suffer for having believed Malick is still capable of making movies as great as Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World.


Knight of Cups plays at select cinemas via Broad Green Pictures.