Creating films since the early 1970's, Terrance Malick has earnt his right as an auteur film-maker. Yet, it does pose the question - are his films actually any good, or do they just get carried along? Often they feel about forty-five minutes too long, seem to have no understanding of what they are actually about, yet pretentiously always do very well. His latest film, Knight of Cups, seems to follow that odd trend.
That said, Knight of Cups is not much a conventional type of film, but more of an experience of one. The film follows Rick (Christian Bale), a screenwriter who through the wanders of L.A, as he tries to make sense of what is occurring around him after a break-up from his life (Cate Blanchett) - during which, he encounters various other women; Imogen Poots and Natalie Portman included.
It's philosophical, it's dazing and completely bizarre. Put into simple context, it is essentially Christian Bale wandering around and doing celebrity-type stuff, all whilst narrated with allegories, riddles and meaningful - yet forgetful, quotes. Trying to make sense of it as an audience is already complicated, let alone Bale's character trying to do it too.
Filmed like a travel advert, Malick's film-making style - this time alongside DP Emmanuel Lubezki - remains good - even if the substance doesn't.. Wide set vistas, slow motion, calming piano tracks and narration all squeeze into the mixture as the non-linear narrative imposes its poetic nature onto the screen visually (or attempts to). Yet, overall it just seems empty.
No shortage of stars, Knight of Cups entices us in with the big names such as Bale, Blanchett, Portman and Poots - plus another ten-or-so cameos inbetween - but that aside, much of the film is random, misplaced nonsense that the main character is trying just as hard to understand. At several points you get to a point that you think you understand it, but soon realise you don't.
Asked at the Berlinale Press Conference of the film - Bale was asked what the film was actually about, also out of the loop, he replies; 'Terence's approach was that he didn't tell us what it was about... We talked an awful lot about different things, but he really just gave me a character description and a background of who he was - then he would torpedo us in'...
Granted it looks very nice - even if at points it feels like a Lady GaGa video - yet, what Malick does confidentially with Knight of Cups is leave a lot open to interpretation and / or confusion.