On Richard Brody’s New Yorker Blog, the DVD of the Week is that fave, that treasure, Terrence Malick’s Badlands.
It’s a jolt to see “Badlands” again after having seen the new movie; what seems, in the earlier film, to have been mere hints, adornments, and suggestions—background gleams, silhouettes, shots of nature and landscape, a fascination with the celestial, a sense of the cosmic …
And I am like, stop right there! What about those crickets and other night cries in “Days of Heaven.” What about those “background gleams” that sure as hell came to the forefront in the prairie fire. Silhouettes—Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, swiping at the fire with what was it, their shirts? Tricky fire, it seemed so small, so manageable, before it swept the plains. Just clumps of grass.
Grass. What a motif, throughout Malick’s work. The New World … nothing but grass whispers, until, y, Colin Farrell appears like a god, from nowhere the natives had imagined, ever had reason to imagine. The Thin Red Line. Must I go on? It is a pleasure to go on.
Then a commenter gets his pants in a knot. I make it a rule not to read comments, because they always spoil the damn piece.
… Kael’s opinion wasn’t based solely on the performance style of the actors. She says, “Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek) are emotionless, and the film looks at them emotionlessly.” She says that “Kit and Holly are kept at a distance, doing things for no explained purpose; it’s as if the director had taped gauze over their characters, so we wouldn’t be able to take a reading on them.” If any “mistake” has been made, it’s been made by you, Richard Brody, in your consistently skewed interpretations of Kael’s words.
Like Pauline Kael was someone to look to on the subject of emotion? Kael, as quoted here, is so misguided, I can’t help but think she was threatened by all that Malick foretold—not her kind of film. And film was hers, then.
For if Kit and Holly represented anyone, it was precisely nowhere kids like them: bored, without resource, without a future. Kit grabbed at what everyone grabs at now: fame. Via murder? Does the shooter care?
And Holly? Didn’t you know phlegmatic girls like Holly back in school?
Then you didn’t grow up in a small town. Where no one gave a thought to a college education. Where your life held no surprises. Only risk.
I left Mr. Pants a reply. Funny how you can care about a film.
Maybe it’s an age thing, or where you grew up, but nothing could convey that empty forward push of people like Kit and Holly than their “emotionless” demeanor. Which shows them as all the more lost, in the modern world to come.