Monday, April 19, 2010

1998: The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick)

1998: The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick) 
What an amazing, unparalleled career to examine, the filmmaking career of Terrence Malick.  Two critically-revered films and then nothing for twenty years.  I'll never forget when I first saw this one.  It was at my single favorite theater in all of Los Angeles, the Mann Village Theatre.  It was the middle of the day, I was up in the balcony, and completely mesmerized.  
I'm in a small, small camp, it seems, that considers this their favorite of all of Malick's films.  Though his style always interests me, I like the way it works best in this one.
When I think about The Thin Red Line, I think about one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen.   John Toll's colors and Malick's unmatched relationship to nature combine to create an experience that had synapses firing for me that I never knew existed.  
Malick, like David Lynch, has such a liberated style you almost feel like you're in one of their meditation strands as their films unfold.  A brilliant return for an American original.  Malick is a real force, and I'm excited to see where he continues to go.  
Other contenders for 1998:  From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include:  Manoel de Oliveira's  Inquietude, Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema, Jacques Rivette's Secret defense, Whit Stillman's The Last Days of DiscoJohn Madden's Shakespeare in Love, and Patrice Chereau's Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train. At some point I'll need to revisit Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration as I struggled it with it the one time I saw it.  But from this year, I really like Warren Beatty's Bulworth, Olivier Assayas' Late August, Early September, Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66Tony Barbieri's OneHou Hsiao-hsien's The Flowers of Shanghai, The Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski, and Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.  I love Erick Zonca's The Dreamlife of Angels, Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters, and Hirokazu Koreeda's After Life. And my closest runner-up is Eric Rohmer's An Autumn Tale.

9/23/11 I watched Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco.  I like Stillman and really love Metropolitan.  But here his characters and their intellectual rants grow tiresome after awhile, and the whole world begins to reek of artifice rather than as some expert, personal style.  

4/19/14 I watched Mark Cousins' The Story of Film: New Boundaries: World Cinema in Africa, Asia & Latin America.  I enjoyed seeing Kiarostami of course and highlights for me were hearing both Tsai Ming-liang and him interviewed. 

10/17/18 I watched Tamara Jenkins' Slums of Beverly Hills.  Some really impressive acting, particularly Tomei, but an indy that feels very much of its time which in this case is not a great thing.

3/21/20 I watched David Gordon Green's Physical Pinball.  Interesting to see Green without Orr.  There is a little bit of poetry here but it is nowhere near what he would achieve two years later with George Washington.  

2/8/21 I watched John Dahl's Rounders.  Every now and then I will see a reconsider film, a movie that forces me to rethink how I feel about an actor, a director or several of its cast or crew.  Although adhering closely to the path set out by The Hustler and countless other films about redemption, and certainly not seeking to be high art, Rounders made me for the first time rate Dahl and Norton, both of whom I have always felt lukewarm about.  It has to be the greatest film yet about poker.  

11/25/21 I watched Julio Medem's Lovers of the Artic Circle.  The romantic sweep hint at some of cienma's greatest stories of romance.  But Medem's style is a bit too heavyhanded to earn all of the genuine beats of the story.

7/11/22 I watched Samira Makhmalbaf's The Apple.  I am still relatively unfamiliar with Makhmalbaf's films and her father's work compared to Kiarostami.  As a debut feature, it is remarkable.  It would be fair to say its approach appears neorealist - natural locations, seemingly non-professional actors, humanistic gestures, very little non-diegetic music and simple stories delivered as parables.  It is heavier on the symbolism than in Kiarostami's work or the early neorealist films from Rossellini, De Sica or Visconti.  It is also darker and engaged with more emotionally disturbing material than any work I can recall from the aforementioned filmmakers.  

9/14/23 I watched Ziad Doueiri's West Beirut.  In its best moments, it gets at the wonderful balance that neorealism struck infusing the heaviness of history's tragic moments with the richness of lives and humanity.  But it lacks neorealism's rigor and I never fully felt the characters' plight.

10/13/23 I watched Cauleen Smith's Drylongso.  Extremely small budget filmmaking that at times rises to impress and move.  But I struggled with the main actress (she just came across as too young to me compared to the others around her) and I was never fully immersed in Smith's world and emotions.


  1. It's a masterpiece for sure Jeffrey, and I share your passion for it. Depending on what day of the week you ask me, I could have this as #1 of this year as well. This is a ravishing meditative tone poem of enormous power.

    My Own #1 Film of 1998:

    Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (Chereau; France)


    Celebration (Vinterberg; Denmark)
    The Thin Red Line (Malick; USA)
    After Life (Kore-Eda; Japan)
    The Dreamlife of Angels (Zonca; France)
    Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg; USA)
    Gods and Monsters (Condon; USA)
    Pleasantville (Ross; USA)
    A Bug's Life (Lassetter; Stanton; USA)
    The Legend of 1900 (Tornatore; Italy; USA)
    Conte d'Automne (Rohmer; France)
    Elizabeth (Kapur; USA)
    The Red Violin (Girard; USA)
    The Last Days of Disco (Stillman; USA)
    The Opposite of Sex (Roos; USA)
    Happiness (Solandz; USA)
    Flowers of Shanghai (Hsaio-Hsien; Hong Kong)

  2. I thought "Bulworth" sucked. But "The Thin Red Line" is pretty brilliant. Nick Nolte did a great interview with Charlie Rose about that movie that you can find on Rose's website. Nolte tells a story about how Malick kept making changes to the film deep into post-production by telling the various groups of editors that the other groups said he could make changes. It's a great interview.

  3. Brilliantly stated, Sam!

    "This is a ravishing meditative tone poem of enormous power."

    I couldn't agree more. Thanks so much!

  4. You are not alone on your appreciation of this film as Malick's best. I love this film dearly and it just edges out DAYS OF HEAVEN as my fave of the man's small output.

    I remember seeing this when it first came out in theaters and being so wowed by it that I went and saw it two more times. I am really excited that the Criterion Collection is going to be releasing this on DVD in the near future. I really hope they include some of the deleted footage that Malick reportedly shot, including actors who were cut out entirely (Bill Pullman for one).

  5. Cribbster, great to hear from you! I'll definitely have to seek that Nolte interview out. It sounds awesome.

    Thanks so much for being here!

  6. JD, great to hear that you're also a fan of this one! It'll be exciting to see the Criterion edition. Although I guess we'd all agree, this is one of those films that just has to be seen at some point in the theater.

    Thanks, JD! Always awesome to hear from you.

  7. Jeff this is my favorite Mallick film as well. Its visual beauty is intoxicating. Off the top of my head I also enjoyed Dark City, Saving Private Ryan, and The Big Lebowski from 98......M.Roca

  8. M Roca, good to hear I'm not alone on this one! I haven't seen DARK CITY yet, but I am a fan of the other two you mention.

    Thanks! Great to have you here.

  9. It's a true masterpiece, a beautifully crafted meditation on the relationship between man and nature. It'd be my pick for this year as well, and it's a toss up between this and Days of Heaven as my favorite Malick.

    From this year I'm also a big fan of Rivette's Secret Defense (another masterpiece), Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66, Koreeda's After Life, Loach's My Name Is Joe, Stillman's The Last Days of Disco, and Paskaljevic's Cabaret Balkan

  10. Drew, very well put!

    From the rest of your list, you reminded me of some other things I should have included. I'm adding them now.

    Thanks, Drew! Always great to have you here.

  11. While I have seen and loved both Badlands and Days of Heaven, I still need to catch up on The Thin Red Line. My own # 1 pick is Shakesphere in Love.

    Out of Sight
    Gods and Monsters
    The Truman Show
    A Simple Plan

  12. It's hard for me to argue with any Malick selection (with the exception of Badlands, which you obviously didn't choose), as he just might be my favorite filmmaker. I still feel like The New World is his true masterpiece, but The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven are not too far behind. Depending on the day that you ask me, I could easily choose The Thin Red Line as tops of 1998.

    But, I can't keep from going with the riotous THE BIG LEBOWSKI. It's just too much fun, too witty, too hilarious for me not to pick it. It remains my favorite Coen Brothers film and I never tire of watching it. Walter Sobchek is one of the greatest on-screen characters of all time!

  13. Jeffrey, how much one likes Malick's movie may depend on how much one agrees with his philosophy. I found the rhetoric and the voice-overs more annoying than in his previous films, and the expected brilliant visuals couldn't compensate for that. Some people may praise this only to damn Private Ryan but that's clearly not the case with you. In my opinion Ryan is the better war movie, and as for the best film of 1998 it's between Ryan and Lebowski. But if Criterion is doing Thin Red Line I may give it another chance soon.

  14. John, I'll be curious to hear what you think of this one.

    From your list, I like OUT OF SIGHT and A SIMPLE PLAN although a little less than the ones I mentioned. I still need to see PLEASANTVILLE, ANTZ, and THE TRUMAN SHOW.

    Thanks, John. Always great to have you here!

  15. Dave, I'm with you on THE BIG LEBOWSKI! It's about as entertaining as it gets.

    Thanks, Dave. Always great to have you here!

  16. Samuel, I completely respect that position and am certainly a fan of the other two films you mention! In fact, I think they're pretty incredible, too. And you're right, for many it almost seemed like you had to choose your camp, Malick or Spielberg for this year?

    Thanks, Samuel. Always great to hear from you!