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'Knight of Cups': Director Terrence Malick's movies have become increasingly somnolent

'Cups' stars Christian Bale as a Hollywood screenwriter. Malick’s movie is pushing the same old cliché about the soullessness of the material life versus the spirituality of a life lived apart from such corruptions.

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Cate Blanchett stars as ‘Nancy’ and Christian Bale as ‘Rick’ in Terrence Malick's drama ‘Knight of Cups,’ a Broad Green Pictures release.

Courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon/Broad Green Pictures

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There was a time when I looked forward to Terrence Malick’s movies, infrequent as they are, because, for all his infuriating artiness, he has a way of seeing that’s unlike any other director’s. At his best, in films like “Badlands” and snatches of some of his others, he evokes a trancelike lyricism. But his films, starting especially with “The Tree of Life” and the unfortunate “To the Wonder,” have become increasingly somnolent – privatized meditations about life and death and the meaning of it all. 

“Knight of Cups” isn’t quite as fancy-flimsy as “To the Wonder,” which, as I remember it, consisted mostly of Ben Affleck gazing dazedly at wave formations, but it’s close enough. Christian Bale plays a Hollywood screenwriter, at least that’s what he thinks he is, who endures a life of swank movie-colony parties and babes flinging themselves at him (among those playing the “babes”: Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, and Freida Pinto) while, on the soundtrack, we hear his (or somebody’s) voice-over bemoaning the sad state of existence. Audiences may beg to differ with him: If you’re going to suffer, there are worse ways than being pursued by someone who looks like Freida.

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Malick’s movie, with its recurring passages of Edvard Grieg and others on the music track, may seem high-toned, but he’s pushing the same old cliché about the soullessness of the material life versus the spirituality of a life lived apart from such corruptions. Since Bale’s character doesn’t exhibit any inner spiritual life to begin with, his disillusion here rings false. 

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I used to think it was a good thing that Malick made movies like no one else’s. Maybe he should try being a bit more derivative next time. Grade: C (Rated R for some nudity, sexuality, and language.)


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