2015 Blind Spot Series – “Paris, Texas”

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From the film’s first scene we know that “Paris, Texas” is something unique. A sprawling overhead camera combs a sparse desert landscape to the ominous twanging of an acoustic guitar. The camera settles on a thin, disheveled man with a straggly beard, dusty suit, tattered shoes, and a red ball cap. He drinks the last of his water from an old milk jug and then heads on his way.

Immediately we find ourselves asking a number of questions. Who is this man? Is he looking for something? Where has he been? Where is he going? He seems lost, like a wanderer. But at the same time he’s heading in a specific direction, his eyes fixated on the horizon. These early scenes highlighting the South Texas desert are filmed with an almost postapocalyptic perspective. The rugged and bleak terrain that Travis roams offers no sense of hope or life. This landscape is captivating and we are instantly drawn into the mystery of this man.

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“Paris, Texas” was directed by German filmmaker Wim Wenders and written by “Kit” Carson and Sam Shepard. The film was a big winner at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and over the years it has been heralded as a true film classic. The movie has often been singled out for its striking score from acclaimed guitarist Ry Cooder and its mesmerizing cinematography from long time Wenders collaborator Robby Müller.

After its brilliant setup, the story doesn’t leave us in the desert long. In a surprisingly brisk fashion the film begins feeding us morsels of information about this man whose name is Travis. He’s played by the great Harry Dean Stanton, an actor who has always been able to speak volumes through his expressive face. It turns out Travis disappeared four years ago and no one has seen him since. We learn that he had a wife and son but something happened and he lost them. In fact, in some ways this gets to the key focus of the film – loss, fear, insecurity, sacrifice.

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The slow and methodical unveiling of information begins in the desert and then picks up when Travis is found by his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell). Walt, his wife Anne (Aurore Clément), and their son Hunter (Hunter Carson) each play a part in putting together this complex human puzzle that is Travis’ life. They are keys, each unlocking new portions of his backstory while also moving the narrative forward. Nastassja Kinski appears later to offer an even different layer to the Travis character.

The movie is basically broken down into three chapters. The first chapter follows the desert wanderer. The second chapter spotlights the time Travis spends with Walt and his family. The third chapter turns into an unexpected road trip. I won’t spoil a thing, but the film makes an interesting shift and the story sets its focus in a new direction while still maintaining its very grounded and cliche-free structure. The third act is the most fascinating and compelling even though it has a fairly glaring narrative hiccup and a couple of lapses in logic.

 

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“Paris, Texas” has so many unique features that differentiated it from the majority of movies being made at that time. And the film’s captivating uniqueness still makes an impression today which is a testament to its quality. The cinematography is sublime, never using camera trickery or gimmicks. It visualizes truth and authenticity. The story is simple but emotionally rich and pure, again focusing on truth. It stumbles in a few places but never loses itself. Most of the performances hit every right note especially Stanton, Kinski, and young Carson. All of this is brought together under the management of Wenders who tells a living, breathing story free of contrivances and artifice.

The film never sets foot in Paris, Texas. It’s a mirage that sits in the back of Travis’ mind. It serves as a connection to his past. It serves as a small hope for a potential future. For a time it gives Travis a sense of direction, a purpose to follow. But over the course of the film we see Paris, Texas replaced. He finds a new purpose at least for a time. But Paris, Texas still lingers for Travis, and by the film’s end we fully understand its importance.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

REVIEW: “Bande à part” (“Band of Outsiders”)

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“Band of Outsiders” was Jean-Luc Godard’s seventh film and a unique entry into the French New Wave movement. Viewed by some as Godard’s most accessible movie, “Band of Outsiders” is a playful, saucy romp which has influenced a variety of filmmakers through the decades that have followed. While the film may be considered a bit lighter than some of Godard’s other work, many of the director’s signature touches can be clearly seen.

Friends Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) recruit the reluctant Odile (Anna Karina) to help them pull off a heist. Odile lives in a villa with her Aunt Victoria and a mysterious wealthy man named Stoltz. One day she tells Franz of a large stash of money kept inside the villa. Franz and Arthur devise a plan to steal the money and Odile serves as their insider. But it grows more and more obvious that she doesn’t want to go through with it. She’s not a criminal. She’s actually sad, lonely, and looking for some validation to her life. That’s the only reason she connects with Franz and Arthur.

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Things are made more interesting by the fact that both men are smitten with Odile (at least to some degree). Franz is low-key and clearly in love with her. Arthur is a rude, rebellious, hellion so naturally Odile falls for him. Godard doesn’t give us the standard tensions or follow the same path as most movies featuring this kind of love triangle. It doesn’t become the focal point of the story. It’s simply a component of their relationships that slightly persuades how things turn out.

While the heist is the ultimate goal, the film is about these three characters. Godard treats them as…well…a band of outsiders. They each seem to be living in their own make-believe worlds. They seem to treat life as if it were a movie. We even get moments where Franz and Arthur act out scenes from gangster films. On one hand the trio shows a fresh and energetic approach to living that we see in their frolicking around Paris. On the other hand there is the naive indifference they have to reality and consequences. Only Odile seems to struggle with this.

While the characters and their relationships are the central focus, there is the heist angle which is also unique and unconventional. At times the film feels like a prototypical American crime drama that has been infused with French New Wave irreverence and style. The story sets its aim on a pretty familiar target, but Godard’s auteur’s approach gives us more than the normal heist movie tropes. Our trio are the most inadequate and unprepared people to be trying such a score. We see it in their lackluster planning and in the disastrous end results.

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As with most of Jean-Luc Godard’s movies, there are certain moments that make the film unquestionably his. There is a great cafe sequence featuring a fun and crafty ‘moment of silence’ and the famous “Madison Dance” which inspired Quentin Tarantino’s dance sequence in “Pulp Fiction”. There is the equally famous ‘record-breaking’ race through the Louvre museum – a chipper and playful moment just before things take a darker and more realistic turn. And of course there are numerous artistic references to poetry, music, and film.

I could mention several other things that make “Band of Outsiders” a good film. I could mention the wonderful performances led by the magnetic Anna Karina. She was Godard’s wife at the time and his camera loves her. I could mention the film’s smart and effective blend of excitement and pathos. But ultimately it comes down to a fine filmmaker, good material, talented performers, and that spirited French New Wave perspective. For me that’s a perfect recipe for a great movie.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

REVIEW: “3 Days to Kill”

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Kevin Costner’s 2014 reemergence campaign reaches phase two with the release of “3 Days to Kill”. It’s an action/thriller/comedy/family drama (and an assortment of other things) from director McG. The consonant-loving director isn’t one who automatically excited me. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would get a movie akin to “Terminator Salvation” (which I actually liked) or crap like his “Charlie’s Angels” flicks or the even worse “This Means War”. The inclusion of the sketchy Luc Beeson as co-writer added yet another line of uncertainty. But “3 Days to Kill” had one essential draw for me – the resplendent Kevin Costner.

Beeson is no stranger to taking an aging actor and making him an action movie star. Liam Neeson’s wallet is a lot heavier thanks to Mr. Luc. That’s what he does here with Costner although this story is an overloaded hodgepodge of action and dramatic storylines. Beeson and co-writer Adi Hasak try to take this story in a number of different directions but they never take the time to stop and commit to any of them. There are also frequent clashes in tone between the film’s curious split-personality. Toss in some corny melodrama and lazy shortcuts and you have a messy film but not one completely devoid of entertainment.

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Costner plays a grizzled CIA field agent named Ethan Renner who gets a bit of bad news. He finds out he has brain cancer and only a few months to live. He heads to Paris to find his ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and teenaged daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld). His dedication to his work cost him his family and due to his illness he hopes to make amends in the short time he has left. But wouldn’t you know it, work comes a calling. Ethan is approached by a beautiful CIA handler named Vivi (Amber Heard) who wants him to pull that ‘one last job’ in exchange for an experimental drug that may save his life.

Vivi morphs from a CIA agent to a femme fatale with a penchant for leather, stiletto heels, and a wacky assortment of hairstyles. She is one of the weirdest, most cartoonish character, and while Heard is certainly lovely, I have no idea what the movie is trying to do with her. Vivi wants Ethan to hunt down a couple of German arms dealers ominously known as The Albino and The Wolf. Yes, that is honestly their names. He romps all over Paris, from Montmartre to Saint-Germain, shooting, punching, and driving cars really fast. Whenever he does something good, Vivi rewards him with a syringe of meds big enough to kill a cow.

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At the same time he’s reconnecting with his daughter who is suddenly entrusted to his care so her mom can take a three-day trip to London (you tell me who the worst parent is). There are so many preposterous and head-scratching moments that make Ethan and his wife look like blundering idiots. I know the film tries to develop believable relationships and sincere family drama, but it ends up tripping all over itself.

There are a number of other examples of how the dopey writing hurts the movie. For example, I don’t know how many times his sickness kicks in just as he’s about to catch The Wolf or The Albino. And I’m talking about within 10 feet of them. He suddenly gets blurry vision, disoriented, and then unconscious. Oh so close! And Parisien law enforcement must of been on strike. You never see one police car or policeman despite all of the shootouts and car chases in public areas. Then there is the ending which uses one of the lamest and most contrived “twists” in order to wrap things up. I could go on but you get the point.

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So considering all I have said this should be a horrible movie, right? Well not necessarily. It’s not as bad as it has every right to be and that’s mainly because of Costner. I love the guy and he makes things look effortless. Regardless of how absurd the scene may be, he is still a ton of fun to watch. He’s basically doing his Crash Davis from “Bull Durham” except he replaces baseballs and bats with pistols and explosives. I also really like Hailee Steinfeld. She’s not always able to rise above the material like Costner, but she’s still a talented young actress.

“3 Days to Kill” also features some cool actions sequences that Costner falls right into including a fantastic car chase through the beautiful yet busy Paris streets. There are also several gags that are actually very funny (in many ways also thanks to Costner). But these things can only cover up so much. Unfortunately the poor writing and McG’s lackluster direction leaves us with a sloppy movie that wastes a lot of potential. It still has its moments of fun and Costner almost saves it. But ultimately its a mediocre action picture that never anchors itself enough to tell a competent story.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Before Sunset”

BEFORE POSTERIn 1995 writer and director Richard Linklater introduced us to Jesse and Celine, two young twentysomethings who – by one spontaneous act – end up spending one night together roaming the streets of Vienna. The two open themselves up to each other and fall in love. The movie ends with Jesse heading to the airport to catch his flight back to the United States and Celine catching her train to Paris. Both agree to meet back at the same station on a set day five years later but as they go their separate ways they, and we, wonder if they will ever see each other again. That movie was “Before Sunrise”. That’s brings us to 2004 and “Before Sunset”, a sequel directed, produced, and co-written by Linklater that tells us what happened to these two fascinating characters.

Ethan Hawke returns as Jesse and we find him at Shakespeare & Company in Paris doing a signing for his new book. Jesse seems successful. His book has taken off and Paris is the last stop on his European promotional blitz before heading back home in the states to his wife and child. While being interviewed we discover that his new book is based on his romance in Vienna 9 years earlier. We also see in the corner of the bookstore Celine (Julie Delpy). Celine, now living in Paris, had come across the promotion of Jesse’s appearance. After finishing his last interview Jesse sees Celine in the corner and the two meet again. Jesse has a few hours before his flight so they slip out and walk through Paris, catching up, reconnecting, tapping into old feelings, and second guessing their life choices.

“Before Sunset” pretty much follows the same formula as the first film. It’s an extremely talky movie and the two main characters are the centerpiece. We see the awkwardness of them first meeting again and their reflections on their night together and the reunion that was to take place five years afterwards. But it doesn’t take long before we see evidence of the same chemistry that had drawn them so close together before. The conversations flow naturally – at first as if getting to know each other again then later like two soul mates pouring their hearts out – and we never doubt that there is a real connection between these two characters.

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In the first film both were young, energetic, and open. But as the movie moved along we found they each had their own worries and insecurities. Jesse took solace in seeing himself as not belonging which in turn gave him a sense of freedom. Nine years later, even with his success as a writer and a wife and child, Jesse still feels as if he doesn’t belong but the byproduct that he once saw as freedom has now become a stranglehold. In the first film Celine was witty, optimistic, and open-minded but yet with her own reservations about things. Nine years later her optimism has turned to pessimism; her open-mindedness has become cynicism and distrust. While she’s still as witty as ever, she has changed the most of the two and it’s clear that she’s wrestling with some overwhelming inner feelings. She’s bitter and forlorn and even a bit neurotic when her emotions get the best of her.

“Before Sunset” isn’t as romantic as “Before Sunrise” but in a very real way it gives the first film a more forceful emotional punch. Their decisions, particularly at the end of the first movie, became life altering choices. Even smaller decisions such as not exchanging phone numbers turned out having monumental effects on the courses of both their lives. This gives the audience several good lessons and points to ponder and Linklater feeds those ideas throughout this film. And while the first film focused on the blossoming of love, this film showed the endurance of love, albeit a now unattainable love. We also see both Jesse and Celine shackled with their own personal and emotional baggage.

There’s a lot to like about this film but like it’s predecessor, the writing is really what makes this movie so special. Linklater once again worked with Kim Krizen to develop the story and Hawke and Delpy both contributed a lot to the screenplay. Like before, you can clearly see the collaborative effort of the four writers in not only creating two fascinating characters but in presenting a large amount of dialogue that we the audience never lose interest in. A lot of that is also due to Hawke and Delpy’s incredible performances. Both are extremely comfortable with the characters and the material and their own influence into the story translates strongly on screen. Also impressive is their ability to handle these long dialogue-soaked takes. There’s an enviable skill in being able to nail a long take. These two performers do it over and over again.

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In “Before Sunset” Linklater uses Paris instead of Vienna but uses it in a slightly better way. The beauty of Paris isn’t thrown in our faces. Instead it playfully lingers in the background injecting itself at just the right moments (as only the City of Light could do) giving the movie a more romantic feel. It’s not forceful or overdone. The movie was filmed in just 15 days and the very few locations used around the city were perfectly appropriate for the long tracking shots and framed still shots that Linklater incorporates. Another fun and interesting production note – Delpy also wrote and performed three songs for the film.

This is a movie that might not be for everyone. Those unable to withstand long sequences of just two people talking are going to struggle with this picture. But they’re also going to miss out on a fabulous film. The more I think on it, the more I view it and the first movie as inseparable. “Before Sunrise” clearly made the sequel possible but the sequel gave the first movie a real feeling of consequence. These two didn’t just go their separate ways from Vienna. They changed the courses of their lives forever and not necessarily for the better. It doesn’t have the romance of the first film and it’s ending left a little to be desired. But I still find these characters mesmerizing and easy to invest in. Now bring on the third film!

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Moulin Rouge!”

MOILIN ROUGE POSTEROn the surface there’s nothing about the 2001 romantic musical “Moulin Rouge!” that would draw me to it. I’m overly picky and less enthusiastic about musicals than any other movie genre. Baz Luhrmann’s schizophrenic style of filmmaking isn’t something I naturally gravitate towards. Also Nicole Kidman is an actress that I appreciate but who has never really blown me away. So I sat out during the movie’s release and eventual Oscar run. “Moulin Rouge!” would go on to earn 8 Oscar nominations including a Best Actress nod for Kidman. It would win two for Costume Design and Art Direction.

It’s been over 10 years since the release of “Moulin Rouge!” and I’ve finally caught up with it. It’s funny, it wasn’t the music or the popularity or the Oscar recognition that finally got me to sit down and give this film a shot. It was my very real and deep-seated affection for the city of Paris. This proves to be fairly misplaced motivation. The beauty and essence of Paris is never explored or injected into the story and my overall “Moulin Rouge!” experience danced between stimulation and tedium.

I won’t deny that “Moulin Rouge!” has its moments. There’s a visual flare that Luhrmann has that’s undeniable. Here he presents a kaleidoscope of hyperactive visual pageantry. The colors and the pizazz leap off the screen as he moves from one shot to the next at break-neck speed. The problem is he milks it for all its worth, especially in the first half of the film. There’s an almost sensory overload as he bombards us with wild, raucous dance sequences, painted faces, and swirling dresses in a relentless parade of musical debauchery that had me ready to leave Montmartre and head to the more pensive and subdued Latin Quarter.

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Yet, just as I was ready to check out, there would be some little nugget that kept me there. Whenever Luhrmann would dial things back the movie would take a better turn and I could latch on. These are the moments where we get into the actual story. It’s set in 1899 Paris. A young writer named Christian (Ewen McGregor) moves to Montmartre with hopes of experiencing the true Bohemian life of the area. Christian is a wide-eyed idealist who has a special boyish obsession with love, something he has never truly experienced before.

Luhrmann instantly begins to lay out his unusual world. His depiction of Bohemian life opens up on a frantic sugar rush. He quickly baptizes Christian into this weird world through a wacky assortment of characters. He runs into an eccentric group of artists and performers who acquire his help in finishing their musical production. Their ultimate goal is to sell their show to Mr. Zidler (Jim Broadbent), the proprietor of the wild and rowdy Moulin Rouge. The biggest attraction of the Moulin Rouge is the beautiful Satine (Nicole Kidman) and Christian is instantly smitten with her. But Zidler has other plans for his most prized property especially after she catches the eye of a wealthy Duke and potential financier (Richard Roxburgh). If Christian is going to win her love he’s going to have to fight for it.

Listening to that setup of the plot you would think there was a pretty strong story in place but it’s actually a bit anemic. There is an interesting romance in there but it ends up being swallowed up by the injections of peculiar song numbers that feel terribly out of place at times. We get big show versions of everything from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Clearly these wild song choices worked for many people but for me they got in the way of something much more interesting – the complicated romance between Christian and Satine. Luhrmann does allow the romance more breathing room in the final act but by that time I felt worn down by the relentless pomp and spectacle. Luhrmann hasn’t an ounce of subtlety and here he flexes his hyper-stylized muscle whenever he can.

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Even though the more interesting story is smothered for much of the movie, it still manages to stay interesting thanks to the fantastic performances of the two leads. Ewen McGregor is great and watching his character move from innocent naivity to someone who has the harsh realities of the world revealed to him is great fun. But for me it was Kidman’s performance that not only stole the show but kept the movie going. She was a key reason I wanted to sit through the patented teeth-grinding Luhrmann scenes. Kidman is the one performer who has a lot to do and I found her work to be fascinating. Broadbent was okay but his character was so wacky and it was hard for me to get passed that. John Leguizamo has a fairly nice sized role as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Toulouse-Lautrec was a noted French artist but in this film his scenes mirror what I would imagine an acid trip to be like. He’s all over the place and comes off as a clown. Now considering the difficult life Toulouse-Lautrec had, from his childhood struggles to his crippling health problems which resulted in his death at age 36, this portrayal of him could be construed as an insult. Either way it didn’t work for me.

Unfortunately that also sums up my overall reaction to “Moulin Rouge!”. It just didn’t work for me. It’s a shame really because under the heavy coating of Baz Luhrmann’s mind-numbing stylistic excess lies a romantic tale that actually has heart. It’s a romance that’s made all the more interesting by two deeply commited lead performances. But sadly that doesn’t erase the countless times I was rolling my eyes or checking the time. I know “Moulin Rouge!” has a following and if you can connect to this type of schizophrenic storytelling you’ll probably find a lot to like here. But for me it was a case of too much visual insanity, too many poor choices for songs, and not enough of the central romance. That’s enough to keep “Moulin Rouge!” off my rewatch list for quite some time.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

REVIEW: “To the Wonder”

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Terrence Malick is a filmmaker that marches to the beat of his own drum. To be honest, that’s one of the things I like the most about him. We say this often but here it unquestionably applies – you know a Terrence Malick movie when you see one. Malick has a distinct style of lyrical and visual storytelling and you either respond to it or you don’t. Personally I love it. Now sometimes his style is more impressive than his finished products, but for the most part Malick is one of my favorite filmmakers. In fact, his last film “The Tree of Life” was my clear favorite film of 2011.

Malick is a director who takes his time and only makes a film when he’s ready. This is evident by the fact that he has only six movies on his directing resume. His latest, surprisingly only two years after “The Tree of Life”, is another exercise in lyrical and contemplative style. It’s one of my most anticipated films of 2013. It’s called “To the Wonder” and for me it’s another soul-stirring gem that throws the textbook on conventional moviemaking out the window. Instead Malick is making another deeply personal film, possibly his most personal movie to date. It’s also his most romantic, most spiritual, and most tragic film all at the same time.

The movie follows a young couple as they navigate the unquenchable joys and the devastating heartbreaks associated with love. We first meet Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) in Paris, France. The two are madly in love and Malick expresses it through a rhythmic series of romantic and absorbing scenes in such beautiful Parisian settings such as the Luxembourg Gardens and the banks of the Seine River. There’s also a majestic sequence with the two outside of town at the gorgeous Mont Saint-Michel. Neil and Marina can’t seem to be able to control their affection for the other. There’s a strong focus on touch in these scenes whether it’s holding hands or running a hand across the shoulder blades. The romance between Neil and Marina is sublime and beautiful and I never doubted its authenticity.

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Marina, a Paris native and single mother, decides to move with her daughter to the States in order to be close to Neil. They land in midwestern Oklahoma where Neil works as an environmental safety inspector. The contrast between the energetic and vibrant Paris and their sparse and sometimes empty Oklahoma community almost serves as a metaphor for their relationship. The two who were as passionate as the French city they consumed now battle creeping bouts of emptiness and an emotional wedge that we watch grow and grow. It becomes painfully obvious that their relationship is hurting but neither seems to know what to do.

Then there’s the story of Quintana (Javier Bardem), the local priest in Neil and Marina’s area. Quintana is a troubled man. He has a deep love for the Lord but he feels disconnected. He’s dying to have the intimacy with God that he once had. He visits the sick, the poor, and the needy. He shepherds his flock. Yet there’s still a void in his soul that he desperately wants to fill. But he’s also a lonely man bound by the shackles of the priesthood an its strict rules. Watching Bardem’s solemn face and lonely, tired eyes really drew me to this character. It did surprise me how little he had to do with what seemed like the main focus of the film but Malick shows some moving similarities between his struggles and those of Neil and Marina.

Their stories do begin to connect and we watch as everything plays out. But don’t expect a tight narrative with a fully disclosed ending. Malick is more interested in having us observe and experience than being baby fed an entire story. He wants us to feel, to sympathize, to grow angry, and to meditate. Our time is spent observing and Malick lays his canvas before us. On it he explores inner conflicts, poor and costly decisions, and revived hope. It’s presented through an artistic machine that utilizes everything including the stunning score, the beauty of nature, a graceful camera, and the natural ambiance of the world surrounding his characters.

Affleck and Kurylenko are transcendent. The film features little to no dialogue with the exception of voice-over narrations therefore the two lead actors basically perform off of each other or in scenes alone. Neither ever seem aware of the camera and both get lost in their performances. Affleck was a great surprise. He’s quiet, sincere, and a stout and strong contrast to Kurylenko’s subtle elegance and grace. And speaking of Kurylenko, I think she gives an awards worthy performance. But while the performances are key, a Terrence Malick film is usually made in the editing room. Don’t believe me? Just ask Rachel Weisz and Jessica Chastain. Both shot scenes for the film but all of them ended up on the cutting room floor. Regardless the editing is sensational and the film moves like a page of good music with the exceptions of a few patches of repetition in the second half of the film.

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As with his other movies, Malick uses his visuals to draw us in and also tell the bulk of his story. His sensational command of his camera and his artist’s eye for capturing beautiful shots are essential to his success. His camera is constantly moving and it always seems perfectly positioned. I was absorbed in what I was seeing and his fluid and poetic transitions from shot to shot kept me that way. Even for those who don’t respond to the film as a whole, they’ll be hard pressed to not be fascinated with Malick’s visual artistry.

There will be plenty of people who can’t latch onto “To the Wonder”. It will be perceived as slow, confounding, and lifeless. I couldn’t disagree more. I loved the film and while it’s certainly not as challenging as “The Tree of Life”, it’s still a captivating piece of cinema. It doesn’t answer every question. It doesn’t adhere to a conventional storytelling formula. It asks the audience to think and to feel. If you’re not open to that you’re probably not going to respond well to this film.

In his final review before his unfortunate passing, the late Roger Ebert said this about “To the Wonder” : “(Many will) be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply.” I think he’s right and some early reviews have shown that to be true. But I believe Malick has given us another standout picture that takes a real (sometimes uncomfortably so) look at relationships, faith, and the quest for love in both. Yet it’s all told through an artist’s lens with entrancing metaphoric imagery and a steady grace that could only come from a Terrence Malick film. I know many are going to struggle with this movie but for me it’s the first great film of 2013.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS