Knight of Cups
dir-scr Terrence Malick
prd Nicolas Gonda, Sarah Green, Ken Kao
with Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Freida Pinto, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Imogen Poots, Peter Matthiessen
release US 4.Mar.16
15/US 1h58
Knight of Cups
Beautiful emptiness: Bale and Blanchett

portman dennehy banderas
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Knight of Cups Spectacularly photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki, this is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the emptiness of fame. Terrence Malick continues to move away from narrative storytelling, letting images and events swirl in a dreamy, confusing melange. As a result, the film feels thoroughly indulgent and also as vacuous as a fashion catalog. But it's also enticingly mesmerising.

Writer Rick (Bale) is pondering "years living a life of someone I didn't even know", imagining himself as a knight sent by his father (Dennehy) to find a pearl, but he drinks from a cup that puts him into a deep sleep. In other words, Rick goes to Hollywood and loses himself in the hedonistic lifestyle. He tries to reconnect with his ex (Blanchett). His brother (Bentley) visits. There are a blur of encounters with a married woman (Portman), an exotic model (Pinto), a stripper (Palmer) and a waitress (Lucas) he takes to Vegas.

The film is a striking, sometimes Fellini-esque collection of images, juxtaposing wide open landscapes with Los Angeles' entangled freeways, the loneliness of a studio lot and the numbing energy of a star-packed party in yet another lavishly over-the-top setting. The people at these events are colourful and magnetic. Meanwhile, the evasive dialog is delivered largely in voiceover mingled with inner musings. And the beautiful imagery evokes big emotions and dark thoughts in scenes set on beaches, in deserts and in various glamourous locations.

Bale is thoughtful and intriguing as a man who realises his life is off the rails because he forgot who he was. He clearly gets little pleasure from the string of young women and boozy parties, and even his work seems unsatisfying. But this is such a familiar theme that his whispery navel-gazing makes him rather unsympathetic. He is, after all, the cause of his own misery. Blanchett and Portman have more opportunity to engage, subtly revealing dark thoughts and fears. And Banderas shines as a flashy party host. But all of the characters are mere archetypes.

There's the nagging feeling that scenes were shot for how gorgeous they look rather than how they contribute to a story. And Malick includes oddly pointed glimpses of homelessness, sweatshops, a robbery, an earthquake. All of this adds texture and interest, although it both muddies the narrative and over-eggs the themes. Malick seems to be trying to say that the high life is empty and destructive, which may be true, but he also makes it look pretty fabulous.

cert 15 themes, language, nudity 16.Feb.16

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Knight of Cups Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall