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8441Re: To The Wonder

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  • Julien Picot
    Apr 17, 2013
      My dear friends,

      A few thoughts after watching “To The Wonder”.

      It is a film with many problems and few virtues.

      The beginning and all the Paris section are wonderful. Mont Saint-Michel and the Paris streets are filmed in such a beautiful and evocative manner. It is an excellent starting point.
      The CUT that takes us from Paris to Oklahoma is stunning. Just “that” cut, that frame, the way he jumps from Paris to Oklahoma. Pure filmmaking at it's best. Moments like these, simple and pure, show us Malick as a gifted director, a one that plays on a major league: no airports, no suitcases, no planes, and no arrivals... Just a cut and move on. 

      The Sound Design:

      It is stunning and the best part of the movie so far. It is a magnificent aural experience. It makes you want to "listen" the movie instead of watching it. It is a much better movie (sic) when listening it. Multiple layers of sounds, music, whispers, echoes, and voices, all mixed in such a great and delicate balance. Brilliant. 

      Some (BIG) problems:

      I think Malick has become a self-parody and his cinema already a franchise for this kind of aesthetics. There is so much indulgence, so much self-consciousness. Finally, this is the Malick for the mass culture. There is now a label for this type of products: “Malickian”. And he is the first instigator or the best salesman of it. 
      No transcendentalism cinema can be achieved with such approach. It becomes tacky and phony. I don’t buy this false romanticism and spiritualism. There are moments, certainly, but the overall result is full of mannerisms. Shame. 

      I wish Malick would be brave and explore new paths. First, he should try to get rid of the voice-over and embrace a full radicalism attitude/approach towards his material. Believe me, this movie would be much much better without the reiterative and so fingered voice-over. Of course it has beautiful and poetic moments but most of it is just unnecessary. Imagine this movie without the voice-over, with the minimum dialogue and there you have a perfect film. New challenges could be presented to the audience through this approach. This is just an idea but I feel that Malick has exhausted its potential. 

      Malick, IMHO, has a problem with stars that can't improvise or understand what they are asking to do. By now, Malick doesn't need stars or big names in order to gain box-office appeal. Maybe he needs them to funding. If so, he could try harder and start a more intense research of actors that understand him and his material. See Mike Leigh for what I mean. The acting in Leigh films, mostly improvised, is amazing. Malick needs REAL and SENSITIVE actors that can deliver the goods. Don't be the Woody Allen of auteur american cinema! 

      Affleck and Bardem are ridiculous and lost. You are not watching characters, your are watching actors performing or trying to perform. Bardem's voice-over is pathetic. His Spanish tone is so false and lacks all credibility. It is clear Malick does not know Spanish or didn't have someone around to tell him about it. But who would say something to Bardem, right? Olga Kurylenko is the best of all. She is gracious and fragile as expected. Of course she spends most of the time dancing and running on the field with her open arms in a commercial/music video fashion (c'mon Terry, you can do better!) and this become reiterative and naive. But she is good when delivering the struggle and drama. Romina Mondello delivers the worst part: a monologue (in Italian) about freedom that I was embarrassed for her. We are already seeing that they live in a suburb in the middle-of-nowhere where live is boring and has little meaning. I don't understand this decision since we
      already got it. I believe this is an error: the unnecessary need of telling what you are seeing. Rachel McAdams is expendable. Period. 

      But there is something special regarding the acting and actors. And is not about the stars but the real people Malick finds on location. At least they look so authentic and genuine that they steal the show from the lead actors. Malick should deal with this topic deeper. It is fascinating and he captures these people and their circumstances so well you want to know more about their stories. He should embrace or explore a formal radicalism or some kind of American Neo-Realism style. A director like Malick is closer to the methods of Pasolini, Rossellini or Frederick Wiseman. There is a great moment to catch a glimpse of what I mean: Bardem, a priest that struggles with a crisis of faith, talks to a black old man inside the church. This man is absolutely amazing and his lines seems so improvise and personal. On the other hand, Bardem looks so vulnerable as an actor. The contrast is so relevant. To mix professional actors and real people can be a great idea
      if achieved well. For that, Malick needs actors that understand this kind of procedure.  The movie is a failure but shows enormous possibilities for keep digging and finding new ideas to enrich his filmography. 

      One more thing about actors: Jessica Chastain, Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet, Michael Sheen and Barry Pepper were cut from the final film, so go figure the other possible movies that could be! I think there is a movie about the editing room of Malick! A movie about the possible movies, and never will be, of Terrence Malick.

      Malick has become a full time handheld/stedycam type of director, and sometimes the footage is gorgeous and others too much to express nothing.   

      At the end of the movie, when the camera stops for a few shots, you breathe and feel so good. Those shots are beautiful and charged with so much meaning. Malick should keep the camera quiet more often. 

      And a funny thing in the closing credits, there is one that says: "Ambassador of goodwill: Alexandra Malick”. No idea what it means...

      I feel
      there is something going wrong with the latest Malick. Maybe is this self-
      indulgence, maybe is that he is surrounded by a group of yes-men or simply he
      has not good friends anymore ;) to point him this kind of flaws. There is just
      something that doesn’t fit at all.
      “To The
      Wonder”, even imperfect, could be worth to me if filmed from the guts and lots
      of instinct. Instead, its feel so calculate that there is no more sense of
      exciting risk anymore. This is the Malick imitation made by Malick himself. The
      Malick for everybody, not the real and genuine one some of us used to love.
       The fields have become a postcard, the
      golden sunsets a cliché already. Everything looks worn-out and the Soul is gone.

      Best regards. 
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