Thursday, April 11, 2013

More Like Cialis Commercial

To the Wonder (2012) - Malick
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In retrospect and in comparison to To the Wonder, Tree of Life, Malick's arduous, ambitious magnum opus was the true masterpiece (that is if you wipe off the memory of ever seeing the meta beach walk). It was an uphill battle to criticize when a film is about, well, life. The theme of To the Wonder is just as intangible, if not all encompassing theme of...love. Then why does it feel like an afterthought, or a bastard stepchild, a true nihilistic camera-movement exercise by Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki?

We are introduced to a couple (Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko) as they coddle each other in picturesque Paris, then Mont Saint-Michel just as the tide is coming in. The girl wispily whispers in French her being in the blissful state of being in love. "open me, enter me, we are one," and so on and so forth for two hours. If this wasn't picture perfect enough, she has a button-nosed, cute preteen daughter. Off they go to Malick's Americana - open vistas, horses, big empty houses, wheat fields, churches and billowing curtains. For a while the couple and the kid are in a blissful state. But the square jawed, archetypal stoic American man is caught looking at other females around him from time to time. You see, he'd been hurt before (by a foxy farm girl Rachel McAdams) and has a hard time committing. So off again the Frenchy and the daughter back to Paris. But she can't forget him. So she comes back after ditching the child to her biological father.

It's all grand and pretty- the camera glides around beautiful leads in the magic hour on the beach, in the field, against the window and behind the curtain. And who doesn't want to see enchanting Kurylenko twirling around like the whirling dervishes licking morning dew off of tree branches for hours? She's adorable in that childish way. But she is not a child. She's not Pocahontas nor one of the children in Tree of Life. Then there is Javier Bardem's doubtful priest, who takes up about 20 minutes of screen time, asking the presence of god.

Let's get to the nitty gritty: If they gave out awards for one's earnestness in films, Malick would've won every time he comes out with a new movie (and more frequently it seems, with 3 new films in post-production). New World was stewing in it, so was ToL. Malick to me, is a quintessential filmmaker of flower power generation- well intentioned, earnest and worst of all, too goddamn naive. His lyrical quasi-meta wise man films work best when it's set in specific time frame or place but falter when it's not. The modern setting of TtW and Paris/Texas has no bearing on it to be taken seriously. It is quite obvious that his idea of love is limited and doesn't get beyond the realm of Judeo-Christian belief. More over, he seems to have a very limited knowledge of women. In his movies, they are always a child, a child trapped in women's body or mother. However adorable Kurylenko in Ttw gets, I can't shake off the dirty feeling that she is and always will be a daddy's girl, never a grown woman. So then, he made a real mess out of the theme of love- by very unceremoniously marrying the idea of god's unrequited love and a silly child woman's infatuation. God is in us, god is in all our fleeting interaction, Malick feebly suggests. A cynic in me almost shouts, what do you make of one night stands? What about our worldly desires? What about Cialis? What about gluttony? This ain't 60s man, bums lost.

2 comments:

  1. Foxy was about all Rachel McAdams had going for her in this movie - her performance was hilariously bad, and I've actually liked her in the past. She almost made Benna Fleck look like a decent actor by comparison. Almost! but no, he was no better as a leading man here then in Argo. Why couldn't the undeniably talented Malick just made the movie about Javier Bardem and his magical negro janitor? That would have been entertaining at least, and most likely still way more profound than this horrible mess we were served. If this is what happens when Malick works quickly, he should slow down again, mortality be damned.

    PS - You swiped my take on Tree of Life! What happened to your venom about it being an overlong cotton commercial.

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  2. Only in comparison to To the Wonder, Tree of Life becomes something of a masterpiece. Alone, it is still a glorified cotton commercial.

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