Knight of Cups
Starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Cherry Jones,
There was no script for Knight of Cups, the latest from ADD Director Terrence Malick. In fact each shooting day, the actors, especially Bale (The Dark Knight) had no idea what they were filming. If Malick’s Oscar nominated Tree of Life was his skills at its most competent, then his later films, To the Wonder and now Knight of Cups showcase his unraveling. Despite award winning cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, The Revenant) and an all- star cast, Knight of Cups is as uneventful and meaningless as any cinematic venture you’re likely to sit in front this year.
Rick (Bale) is a screenwriter in Hollywood whose life has come unraveled when his personal life begins to destroy everything he has built. Rick stumbles around Hollywood without much purpose, chasing women, cheating on his wife Nancy (Blanchett) and reminiscing with his brother Barry (Bentley). Nothing fills his life with joy or excitement, in fact he rarely utters a single word each day as he spends his wealth on fancy homes, vintage cars and consistent traveling between the bustling city and the cathartic outdoors. The death of his brother Billy is partly to blame for Rick’s demise, which is partially why he sympathizes with his deteriorating father (Dennehy), a fading stage actor.
As uneventful and meaningless as any cinematic venture you’re likely to sit in front this year.
The opening voice over explains that Rick’s character is the “knight of cups” from the tarot card. “He forgot he was the son of the king,” the voice over says. The film is sectioned into chapters: The Moon, The Hanged Man, Death, etc. Each chapter presents a different segment with a new female. Blanchett appears in Judgement, where just like every other chapter, we find the actors at the edge of the ocean. For this movie, Malick captures the same scenarios with each actor. Regardless of which female character Bale is with, they always end up at the California coast, shots in and underwater always find themselves into the segment. Most of the women appearing in the film are blond, except for Portman who makes her appearance near the end. Malick’s continued obsession with architecture both historic and modern is on full display in this one. He also seems fascinated with flying vehicles this time, as the camera often just turns up toward a passing helicopter or speeding airliner.
Without a script, or to my knowledge, even a real concept of what he is trying to accomplish. Malick’s two years in post-production, (the actors said they spent more time doing voice recordings than in front of the camera) are where he creates a film (if you can call it that) out of the footage. When the trailer for the film was released in spring 2015, it shows scenes of Blanchett and Bale in Austin, TX that never appear in the finished film. Malick was in post-production with this film for two years, which ironically for him is quite fast. It appears the cutting room footage (which there is miles of), will now be assembled into a yet untitled Malick film, which of course will have basically the same cast as “Cups”.
Calling Malick’s latest project a “film” is giving it too much credit.