Impressions of … To The Wonder [Terrence Malick]

Well, well, well, what are we looking at here? Figures in a landscape, lovers wandering beneath a vast sky, lost in a world suffused with God’s benign, generalised love. With ‘Tree of Life’ synthesised a kind of autobiographical cosmic nostalgia, a man’s life, specifically his childhood, and the life of the universe, its birth, specifically, interwoven; some sequences were rapturous, unique, but not here, in this narrative of romantic indecision and infidelity Malick crosses the line from spiritual to religious, it’s too doctrinal, what we’re looking at is Terrence Malick coming out of the Catholic closet, and all the swooning steady-cam and the bucolic spiritual imagery aestheticises a very conservative sense of morality – (Marxist’s would call this ‘bourgeois mysticism’, I guess, “to the wonder”, indeed.)

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there is an ambivalence, a mistrust of sex: the love affairs are bizarrely innocent, the women girlish, flirting and dancing in front of the man/camera, more like a daughter with her father – Olga Kurylenko’s character girlish to the point of being clinically immature; when the man (Ben Affleck) returns to his foreign lover and marries her, his ex (Rachel McAdam) argues he has turned what they had into mere ‘lust’ – but we didn’t see much evidence of that lust; the infidelity timorous and fraught with guilt – this is romantic love as a substitute for divine love

And what is the troubled priest (Javier Bardem) doing in this story, except to guide the viewer toward a proper understanding of the characters’ predicament, by making him troubled he attempts to avoid didacticism, but the tactic is too obvious, it makes the priest’s words more compelling because they appear hard won. On the other hand, his doubt means he can wander in front of the camera with the same pensive yearning as Ben Affleck’s conflicted lover, this equivalence at least removes the distance between laity and clergy, that’s something

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I confess I have a little  sympathy for the film’s conclusion, the beauty of forgiveness, without reward (of a happy ending), and all that, but when it’s all over the experience was pleasant but inconsequential, which I don’t think is the response for which Malick would have been hoping

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Impressions of … Upstream Color [Shane Carruth]

a hotel bar, Toronto, the early hours, Terrence Malick, David Cronenberg and David Lynch have been knocking back the whiskey sours, Lynch and Cronenberg decide they should make a movie together: it will have dream logic – a maggot will be ingested – through an inhaler – later it will crawl beneath a woman’s skin – the maggot will be sourced in the roots of a blue orchid – ingestion will make the victim completely suggestible, she’ll give up all her savings and lose her job, but remember nothing – for the rest of the movie she’ll be trying to work out what the hell happened to her life – there will be rabbits – no, pigs – okay, pigs – it will be a romance, says Malick quietly

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Well, this movie has been made. By Shane Carruth. Who’s Shane Carruth? (No, not the guy serving the drinks in Toronto – that epic session never happened, I made it up.) Carruth is the guy who made ‘Primer’, the brilliantly mundane low-budget sci-fi feature that won Sundance back in 2004. I’d forgotten about him. ‘Upstream Color’ is sort of sci-fi too (I hope), this time pursued with sensuality and lyricism, both emotionally present and narratively elusive – it does have a narrative, but the logic is associative, the editing elliptical, and though, deep down, the film is rooted in procedure and process and details of ordinary life, the strange world it describes is one that doesn’t actually exist and one its characters struggle to understand

experimental, unnerving, a delight to the senses: this film is not a film, it’s a menu by Heston Blumenthal

an absolute treat

and possibly the greatest pig movie ever made

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~

‘Upstream Color’ is being self-distributed through Carruth’s company, available on DVD, Blu-ray, download, and streaming:
here