Knight of Cups (2015) Poster

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A true poem
luukvanriel14 February 2016
I won't mislead anyone. This movie is a tough watch if you don't like movie as a form of art and poetry. This movie requires you to be open-minded, philosophically inclined and love good cinematography and music.

Malick once again put me in a hypnotic state of trance while watching this film. He keeps on going against conventional movie making. His style is hypnotic and gorgeous.

What I took away after and while watching this movie is that it is a observational piece on human behavior. It made me realize how crazy the human race is. The way we enjoy entertainment, treat our women and live our lives. It's all a really surreal thing for a species to do.

Apart from the plot, this movie is mesmerizing and extremely relaxing to watch. The soundtrack is trippy and hypnotic as always and Malick is really settling on a certain (like it or hate it) style of filmmaking. It's very personal whether you like his films or not. To me personally his films are wonderful observational pieces of art that should be stored and preserver for future generations to reflect upon.

His films are also really great material to watch when you're high on psychedelics ;)
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Long & vacuous
nickle10114 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Beautiful shots, lots of them. 2 hours of perfume ads, with an unhappy protagonist, Christian Bale. He is apparently a successful, but definitely miserable, comedy script writer; unintended irony I guess. He doesn't do anything, other than feature in most shots, often bare foot, speaking monotone about the difficulties of 'being', occasionally swimming in his clothes in swimming pools and the sea, often accompanied by women, one more beautiful than the other. The women, most of them, wearing flimsy designer attire, dance and wave their arms about for no apparent reason. The most exciting bit was the 5 sec. shot of Christian Bale riding a skateboard.
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A surreal look into a man's crumbling world
Lubezki1 January 2016
Let's get one thing straight; Terrence Malick's films aren't exactly everyone's cup of tea. They're arguably the most unconventionally crafted movies from a well renowned director out there. Audiences normally criticize him for being highly pretentious and having no meaning in his work. But for some, his films represent everything we love about the artistic medium of motion pictures. With his latest offering, "Knight of Cups", Christian Bale stars as a screenwriter eager to explore his seedy persona in the dreamlike whereabouts of LA.

The film swoons along with a plethora of illusory montages, with Bale being Malick's primary focus as he trudges through the streets of downtown L.A., bizarre nightclubs swarming with vibrant dancers, house parties exclusively for the rich and meditative walks through the desolate wastelands of the Las Vegas desert. For the majority of the film he cuts a forlorn figure, basically looking to find some sort of significance of his life and finding the answer to faith. And in typical Malick fashion, none of what we see on screen is straightforward and we're left to determine our own meaning on the gorgeously composed images. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki once again has a vice like grip on how to bring an ethereal visual lyricism to surroundings.

Malick is one the very few directors who really embraces the beauty of artistic filmmaking. They may not follow a clear cut narrative, but there's no doubting that there's an alluring poetic rhythm that's present in his films. The key is for the viewer to figure out what Malick is attempting to portray. And even if you can't, just go along for the experience. Simply put, if you enjoy his films, you'll most likely find some sort of reward with this.
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A trip
benmichael-633314 January 2016
As we grow more and more tired of dull as dishwater, predictable, structure obsessed nonsense, we come to love films that want to use the medium to take us on a trip. I see nothing wrong with enjoying beautiful imagery, stunning music and a bit of emotional self analysis for a couple of hours. Or would you rather the story by numbers of say, Joy? I may not have loved this as much as Thin Red Line, or Tree of Life, But am I happy to spend two hours with Mr. M? Indeed I am. Anyone who has led anything verging on an interesting life will have plenty to ponder as this washes over them. This was like meditating. It's freeing to let a sense of the story wash over you without having some contrived plot shoved down your throat. I let the cinema invigorated and cleansed.
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Sein and Dasein
diand_17 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Recently Peter Greenaway confessed he almost never saw a movie because there was no development to the form, still being a staged play, with actors doing their lines before the camera: just painting by numbers. Malick is one of the few that do not fit that description of the current state of the art, the others being directors like Tarkovsky, Kar-Wai and to a lesser extent Kubrick.

In Knight of Cups all of Malick's trademarks are present: Rapid intersection of images, hiding of the story in the imagery, perfection in editing and the stream of consciousness-technique where thoughts and feelings are woven in voice-over with narrative. Knight of Cups has many autobiographical elements like The Tree of Life (loss of a brother) and To The Wonder (loss of relationships) already had: A son reflects on the essence of life, on his problematic ambiguous relationship with his father (recently deceased, one chapter in the movie is called Death) and on his relation with his surviving philanthropic brother (also deceased). Then there is the stream of women passing through his life and his feelings of lack of fulfillment. Strongly biblical in nature, questions of guilt and forgiveness pass on throughout, the movie being Malick's therapeutic instrument for reflection on his own life. It invites the audience to deconstruct the images, working as a kind of reversed post-modernism. It blurs the line between real and imagination, combined with the images it works almost hypnotically.

There is a strong comparison here to Tarkovsky's autobiographical Zerkalo / Mirror, where the story itself was simple, but the container was rich and complex as only film can be. (There is the famous story of the cleaning lady (check it out on IMDb) who explained this Tarkovsky movie in one sentence to all critics still baffled by its meaning and trying to make sense of it all).

There are so many great elements in Knight of Cups only a few can be stipulated here:

• Comparing deep personal problems to the largest possible context, for example shots of the atmosphere going over in shots of Rick's convertible. • Humanity finding his true salvation in nature, frequently a scene ends with a shot of rock formations (or the famous moving stones) in the desert, suggesting time, eternity and acceptance. • Christian symbolism: A whole scene in Las Vegas ends with a statue of an angel.

Imagewise, it is his most accomplished movie: amazing shots of both nature and culture intersecting in a way that keeps haunting you; Lubezki's cinematography and Fisk's production design here at the height of their possibilities. One example: The allure of female beauty is brought to the screen so beautiful and intelligent it results in striking image after striking image: shoes, bodies, masks, ads.

It is very interesting to compare the vision on humanity Kubrick, Herzog, Mann and Malick have: Where Kubrick was the Sartre of filmmaking being pessimistic about the existence of man; Herzog sees nature and human culture as strictly separate entities where humanity should not venture. In Mann's world, humanity has lost its emotions, being captured in its own Foucauldian technological prisons. Malick however sees humanity in disarray with nature and part of salvation lies in the resolution of that misalliance.

It can also be said that Malick's work is the visual equivalent of the writings of Heidegger, Malick being the translator of Das Wesen der Grundes / The Essence of Reasons. In Knight of Cups we see an inquiry into Sein (Being) through a person for whom Sein is a question (Dasein). Experience can only be described from the viewpoint of this Dasein. A voice without a voice, coming from conscience, calls Man back in self-awareness and fulfillment (back in Eigentlichkeit from Uneigentlichkeit) meanwhile answering questions about his own existence.

This won nothing in Berlin with all prizes going to minor, uninteresting filmmakers. I think it would also be difficult for Aronofsky to admit his own filmmaking limitations. Although it will likely receive little peer-to-peer or critical appraisal, it brings the art of film to a higher level, earning a place in film history considerable time from now: nonsensical to many, life altering for some.
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Not a movie
Stamone0531 December 2015 not a movie. It's a narrated commercial for nothing, or maybe for the cameras they used for filming? The shots are cool, I'll give it that, one point for the cinematography. Nothing happens in this commercial, there's no story arc, no plot, no character development. You will not experience any emotions during this film, unless you are moved by perfume ads in magazines. You will not have any thoughts about this thing either, besides 'why did I finish that?' , if you can survive to the end. Its a tough watch. Lots of pretty girls in it, so if that means anything to you, then I might recommend this.

I don't think they will release this movie in theaters, it won't be worth that type of distribution, because the movie looks expensive and the cast is top notch. I am not a film critic by any means, but I know this is bad. Not funny bad, just painstakingly boring and pointless bad.

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An enigma within and enigma (albeit a beautiful one).
Balthazar-517 September 2015
Let me start by saying that I regard Terrence Malick as the sole currently working director who can be spoken of with the same reverence as that for the great early masters of cinema – Welles, Chaplin, Hitchcock, Renoir (make your own list). Since 'The Tree of Life' - even since 'The New World', I have thought of him as the saviour of modern cinema from the slurry of bland naturalism.

But the enormous stylistic advances in cinematic expression that have characterised his recent works have come at a price, and the price is clarity of vision. We do not necessarily need to *know* what his images represent, but we need to *feel* it. Occasionally in 'The Tree of Life', frequently in 'To the WONDER' and most of the time in 'Knight of Cups' most people would, I suspect, be at a loss to rationally explain the relevance of much of Malick's visual expression. (They don't always 'feel' right, either.)

So (after three viewings) I offer my 'guide' to this enigmatic film. The 'story' (no story) of 'Knight of Cups' is that of a 'celebrity' Rick (Christian Bale) on the loose in Hollywood, who has lost his moral compass and lives a life of total debauchery drifting from one soulless sexual encounter to another in between failed relationships.

This is represented in a kaleidoscopic torrent of imagery reminiscent of the works of Bruce Connor in the 1960s. Bale does the best he can with the central role of Rick, a 'celebrity' in Hollywood, but, like Sean Penn in 'The Tree of Life', he has really drawn the short straw, as he, like Ben Affleck, Penn and Richard Gere before him tries to wordlessly express his response to ambiguous emotional and moral situations.

Malick, to his credit, tells us what the film is about in an opening voice-over, which recounts a story ('Hymn of the Pearl') from Acts of Thomas in the Apocrypha. A king sends his son to search for a pearl in a foreign land. The pearl is to be found in the sea, protected by a hissing serpent, but the prince is seduced by the inhabitants of the foreign country and given a sleeping draft. After he awakes, he has forgotten not only what he came for, but even that he is a prince.

Much of the first half of the film memorably (but not graphically) depicts the life of total decadence that Rick finds in Tinseltown. But this is interspersed with encounters – real or imagined, present or past – with people from his former life – wife, brother, father.

The term 'emotional roller coaster' is often inappropriately used, but here it is very precisely apt, as one has the sense of Rick being propelled down paths he'd rather not take by external forces over which he has lost control. But, for me, at least, this section is too long and suffers from overkill, in the 'when you've seen one, you've seen 'em all' sense.

The rest of the film follows Rick in his attempts to make sense of his life and find 'the pearl', and, to be fair, the film does give the sense of an inexorable move in this direction which aids dramatic tension and gives clarity in some measure. As in 'To the WONDER', with the story of the crisis of faith of the priest, here also there are tangential sections in which compassion is seen as the alter ego of passion, and the place of young children adds positive emotion to an otherwise extremely bleak, if dazzlingly beautiful work.

Yes, Malick's unique visual lyricism is frequently on display, but, I would have to say that it seems less well integrated into the work's thematic thrust than it is in other of his films, but I could be mistaken here and I will be wanting to see it at least four or five more times when it opens in France in a couple of months.

Visually it is, from time to time, spectacular; sometimes Malick's montages are breathtaking, but there are great mysteries here that I have not come near to fathoming even after three viewings. Frequent shots of high-flying passenger jets, fast-moving shots from the front of a car on desert roads and long-held bleak landscapes from Death Valley and environs punctuate the film. It is not difficult to see the 'meaning' that these images carry, but it is difficult to know why they are repeated so often.

If I sound disappointed, I have not deceived, but Malick, with his entire work, has set the bar so high that anything not bordering on masterpiece simply has to be a disappointment. I drove a thousand kilometres to see this film and back again, and I do not regret the time and effort, but this is a desperately difficult work to fathom and, frankly, for me, makes 'To the WONDER' look like a model of clarity.

I see it as the third (and sadly least) in an intensely personal trilogy for Malick. So where next?
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Boredom through gorgeous pictures
fornallaza14 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
2 hours of meaningless series of fashion ads. Fashion covers architecture, gardening, philosophy and more. Dialogue is made of trivial sentences uttered in an inspired tone, e. g. "Don't forget you have a soul." For sure, the author has no pity on the spectator or the characters and the corresponding players. Bale doesn't seem to enjoy his part at all. The problem is, his uneasiness contaminates the audience. The other characters are almost inexistent. Women are mostly remarkable for their buttocks.

Mister Malick ignores the art of critical realism, or should I say critical idealism. That is, it is perfectly possible to represent boredom in a way that awake some positive reactions in the viewer. I my case the reaction would have been sleep, if the theater had more comfortable seats. Another negative point is the abuse of images of the ocean, sand, waves, sunsets or maybe sunrises, and palm trees. The average tourist with his tablet can certainly approximate this flood of images.
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Existential and introspective poem
arwn29 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know what is there not to get. Why people are so confused about this film. It's very simple. It's said right in the beginning "Remember the story I used to tell you when you were a boy? About a young prince, a knight, sent by his father, the King of the East, west into Egypt, to find a pearl. A pearl from the depths of the sea. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup that took away his memory. He forgot that he was the son of the king. Forgot about the pearl. And fell into a deep sleep.The king didn't forget his son. He continued to send word, messengers, guides. But the prince slept on." And this is basically what this film is about. Trying to wake up, trying to find yourself. Seeing your lived life flashing by before drowning, and feeling the loss and regret of wasted life and opportunity. Now seeing the messages and messengers that were sent to you, but you were blind. You were asleep and refused to wake up. You wanted to dream. You could have been anything, but you didn't choose anything. You were lost and you didn't even know you were lost.

In the very end he chooses. He chooses to try again. And pushes himself to the surface of the water.
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Perfection in the present
vhug-136398 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I gave this film five stars at first viewing, and give it ten at second.

The first time I watched it all I saw was the twirling and self parody. But the first time I watched it I was so transfixed by the images that I didn't pay attention to the voice-over. To echo the plot of the movie, I forgot about the Prince and became transfixed with the land he was in.

This is an incredible movie, it is more than a movie, it is a profound meditation on the loss and consequent pursuit of spiritual identity in a materialistic world. The vapid empty satisfaction of self that leads nowhere and the rediscovery of purpose within this illusory, bright world brought about by suffering or death.

If you're only going to watch this once, don't bother. There's simply too much to process in one viewing. If there's a fault with this movie it is that the images are so hypnotic they distract from the voice-overs overlay that gives them coherence. Perhaps this is intentional and an allegory for the message of the film itself.

This is the most subtle film Malick has made, and as such will leave most people shaking their heads in bewilderment and will further polarize his fans and detractors. If you're already a fan, give it a second viewing. It won't disappoint.
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Pretentious Plastic Palm Trees
Cathex10 January 2016
If you narrate...your movie...using will make it seem...meaningful...

..only it wasn't. From start to finish this film is nothing more than stylised cliché. If you've seen the first 5 minutes then there is absolutely no need to watch the rest, because nothing else happens.

In short the film is as follows: Playful nymphets frolicking around in luxurious spaces, Christian Bale looking like he's had too much lithium, various narrators whispering something about life and some melodramatic improv. acting all filmed with a shaky camera. That's it. No meaning, no message and certainly no depth.

From the style of the film it's safe to say that the director is aiming at depicting a characters search for meaning in a superficial world of carnal desire and material illusion. Unfortunately though, far from creating some kind of Zen reflection, the film itself remains as superficial as the characters it portrays. The direction is a bag of tricks with the same series of shots repeated over and over and the narration is all pseudo-poetic garbage delivered in whispers so it seems deep.

This is all actually very surprising, because this same director also made 'The Tree of Life' which was similar in style to this film but actually had a purpose and urgency to it. In comparison this really does seem suspiciously like a very lazy imitation of his earlier work.

Spiritually this film is about as important as a Levi jeans advert and artistically it's as beautiful as a plastic palm tree. There's literally no reason to watch this film, it's simply the product of Malick's ego masturbation brought to orgasm with the help of some Hollywood A-Listers in the hope everyone would come off looking like celebrity Buddhists. Instead they just look like fakers.

Take my advice, don't waste your time and money on this pretentious nonsense, go and watch The Tree of Life instead.
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A Difficult Movie to Follow
kdavies-6934721 February 2016
Knight of Cups was a very different subject than I was expecting from director Terrence Malick. Few directors delve into the raw emotional content that carries us through our daily narrative. Most of his films approach the viewer from the very abstract to the rather mundane. I was quite impressed with most of his previous work, but I failed to grasp what was going on here.

Christian Bale confirmed in an interview with The Guardian, a few things that people should know before watching this film. Mostly that the director did very little in terms of actual direction and scripting. Every scene in this film was either unscripted or improvised. Actors were playing off each other and had very little to go off of scene by scene.

Bale plays a successful Hollywood Screenwriter, who is haunted by his traumatic past and fails at most of his relationships. Not out of poor decisions but because he seems lost more than anything. The events that lay before him are strange and somewhat unconnected, but the recurring theme of his affairs, love interests, and strange breathy narration (which is fairly typical for Malick's films), make this film somewhat of a repeating loop of the same events over and over again. You're left a bit confused at the end wondering, what was this film about. There are some beautiful shots in it, yet still a difficult movie to follow.

A rather contemporary, if unguided effort on the director's part, and falls somewhat flat next to his more spectacular body of work.

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Takes you to a great emotional level
atlantic_aj11 March 2016
Impressive piece of art. Explores many feelings and life topics, taking one through some of the deepest human emotions. Christian Bale's performance is amazing -like usual. Cate Blanchett is fantastic as well. And in all fairness, most of the cast deserves an applause. I personally believe this to be Malick's best work, delivering the best he has to offer. Not all publics might understand and enjoy this movie, as it requires a high emotional quotient; and willingness to let yourself flow through the experience. The scenes, the lighting, the angles, the cleanness of the movie... everything is greatly curated. No description or use of words can make justice to the experience of watching this movie.
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Over Half Century late than Fellini's 8 1/2 and
CyniLogical31 December 2015
more clueless, going-nowhere pretentious. Trying so hard to find some unnecessary answers with a film to play out meaninglessly by a guy who miraculously relocated or misplaced himself in lot of big-deal events or scenes, either looking up to the sky or jumped off from a pier into the sea for no obvious purpose but spur-of-the-moment childish behaviors, or entangled himself with some females in close contact, flesh against flesh, intimate but without profound romantic feelings at all, or woken by a sudden earthquake, moronically and aimlessly roamed around inside his room with bare feet littered with shattered glass, then when the aftershock tremors hit again, escaped downstairs, still without shoes, looked up to the sky, saw chopper passing, sirens....on and on, situated himself in desert, movie shooting locations, swimming pool, bed for no purpose. The old voice narration....then with some white hair guys mingled among younger ones....on and on, without any meaningful purpose. lot of wide angled nice scenes, sunsets.

The whole movie failed to provide the viewers with any obvious intention but hollow camera works. Trying so hard to look deep but ended up with a big NADA! A pathetic copycat tried so hard to look like the heir of Fellini and his 8 1/2 film but failed miserably except in colors and wide-angle lens. A total clueless waste of resources and viewers' time and eyesight.
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A subtle degree of existentialism which grows on you the longer the movie runs
giggs-3252724 January 2016
It takes a while of watching the movie before starting to appreciate it. However, the longer you get, the more it starts growing on you. Its modernistic style is certainly not for everyone - but the combination of beautiful pictures and captivating music as well as the subtle messages of the flick, is in my opinion brilliant. As with many modernistic pieces it requires that you as a spectator participate, which is very giving, that is, if you actually do it. Then you will experience the emptiness we as human beings have to wrestle with: the apathetic nature of just following the flow: the slumber we experience the moment we stop being active and stop shaping our existence. The movie is a reminder not to fall in slumber, but to wake up and see the pearl.
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Another flawed Malick movie
Horst_In_Translation13 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Knight of Cups" is the newest film by American filmmaker Terrence Malick, who is way into his 70s by now. First of all, the cast of this 120-minute movie looks excellent: Bale, Portman, Blanchett, Poots, Mueller-Stahl, Kingsley, Banderas, Pinto... you cannot ask for much more than that. However, everybody who knows Malick's other (more recent) works will know that his films are so defined in his unique style that there is rarely room for great acting. And the same is the case here. I thought this was a pretty boring watch, possibly worse than "Tree of Life" and certainly worse than "To the Wonder".

Bale is in this one pretty much in every scene from start to finish. We follow his path as he struggles with his brother, but mostly from one relationship with women to the next and it does get repetitive pretty quickly. Müller-Stahl and Portman are very forgettable. Blanchett's scenes are the film's highlight and these 10-15 minutes may have been a good short film, but for these alone it is not worth watching the entire thing. Antonio Banderas is downright embarrassing in his 5 minutes. Lubicki's cinematography is okay, but cannot make up for the weaknesses in script. Some religious moments in here as well and it all feels like a second slightly weaker "Tree of Life". I think Malick is the strongest when he has more than one lead character. Nothing wrong with Bale's performance here. I don't think another actor could have made this work. Oh and a final note about Malick's style in general. It is basically impossible to create a film, in which every scene is an emotional highlight, but that is pretty much what he attempts with the constant classical background music and of course his unique approach where you rarely see the main characters speak, but always hear them in voice-overs. The worst scene was possibly the armed robbery. It absolutely did not fit together with what we heard during this scene. Not a good film unfortunately. All in all, not recommended.
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Malick finally reached his deepest point...
Marry_Kingsley23 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
the trailer was great, and that's about all of it. A long trailer of a film, that waits to happen.

The film shallows one detached picture and sound-wave after the other, like the repetitive encounters at the beach; that can't be felt differently than just a claim...

A claim, that one loves the other. There is no sense in building a feeling.

And if that would be a tool to show the inner world of the protagonist, well then why isn't it changing, while he is -as the film claims- changing.

You can't help but caring for nobody.

Just like after you just came watching a porn-flick, and don't care anymore what is happening to anyone on the screen.

And while we are at it, that is about how much we get involved into the world of the women appearing in this mess. They are as decorative as the surrounding architecture. Appearing, disappearing. Who cares.

I would like give it the new name Enter the Void, but there is just too much boredom filled into this vastness of apathy of filmmaking.

I see that the padre in the end, tries to make sense by telling that God gave us suffering as a gift... but Mr. Malick, even if You are able to let disorientated people run across the screen , You are not God, and I wished I would have never received Your gift of 118 minutes.

There are beautiful pictures, turned to ashes from beginning to end.

Made possible by an incredible lacking of intimacy. Of a filmmaker. To his Work.
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great film, unique vision, beautiful images -- for acting, i guess look elsewhere.
mpugachev2 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Another seemingly inscrutable film from Terrance Malick. Can it be summed up as Mans search for Meaning in a seemingly meaningless world? Its definitely some kind of existentially themed flick, and there isn't much of a story or plot here, but the depth of ambition is quite deep. I felt the movie was very gentle, very genteel as well in its feel, all the dramatic yelling and cussing was muted aurally, and the camera moving gently about while the drama is exploding to the side certainly hammered that feeling home -- uncaring world, caring people. The movie didn't give any answers to the questions it raised, but it did accompany a certain feeling of unrest, of dread, but also of beauty and splendor. The score was beautiful, and all the songs used were really spot on and magnificent. The movie looks heavenly. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki made this movie look even better than The Revenant, but the Revenant had fancier camera work, choreography, and just bombast and ambition, however the colors were certainly prettier in this one. Was it Malick or Lubezki? How should i know. I don't think interiors have ever been more beautifully displayed in cinema than in this movie, and heck, the last shot of the desert took my breath away also. The way the shadows play with light is something to behold here. The director isn't even afraid to throw some jerky ugly disorienting camera movements this time around, or interject with some ugly footage, only to wow you with the real thing back again. I can still see the entire movie in my head 2 days later, so thats a sign that the images were something special, indeed. The only problem, and a trade-off of this kind of movie, is that there was not much of a plot and so I don't know how this movie will hold for repeat viewings. But it certainly leaves a strong indelible mark on you when the credits roll, and thats a mark of a great film. There isn't any witty dialogue or outstanding acting, but i don't think this particular film was going for that. Some people will fault this movie for that, but i think this isn't just that kind of movie where you quote the dialogue years later by heart. I wouldn't give out any acting awards to anyone here certainly. it reminded me of andrei rublev, a similar feel of something grandiose and spiritual unfolding before your eyes.
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Truly Upsetting
ReDrOoM_rEdRoOm7 January 2016
When we go into a Terrence Malick film, we generally know what we're in for: a spiritual journey into Man's soul through unconventional, yet beautiful cinematic means. Malick's films are mostly unscripted and plot less, instead using nature to assist them iin creating a narrative by use of both visceral and symbolic imagery. And like Werner Herzog, there seems to be an almost divine force on their side.

Then there's Knight of Cups: A cinematic farce masquerading as profundity; an excruciating exercise in self indulgent banality. I couldn't believe what was unfolding before me. It was just empty--Lubezki's cinematography, the voice over, the character's-- just empty. A borderline Malick parody. It was almost as if the film was made by a machine, or perhaps some sort of alien being attempting to recreate human emotion. I literally felt nothing while watching it.

The only justifiable reasoning I can fathom on how Malick directed this film, is if he was trying to give the audience a hands on experience of the superficiality and mundanity of the protagonist's life. If this is the case, then I suppose the film is technically a success. If you can call that a success. I'd say the filming of paint drying would be an equally effective treatment of the subject.
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What is this about?
julian-640-54405810 January 2016
I am usually quite tolerant of movies that seem to miss the mark, but this disaster was nothing but a disjointed series of unrelated scenes. It gave me the impression the director just got a new camera and was trying out all of the features on arbitrary meaningless subjects.

It would be very interesting to see how he managed to get some notable actors to participate in this. Maybe they owed someone a favor, I don't know. But what I do know is there is no story of any kind here. Nothing.

At least I did not feel too alone when I asked, "What is this about?", as I am sure the actors, writer and director all asked the same questions when the saw the screening.

Perhaps a more pertinent questions might be: "How did something like this even get made?"
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Malick's Deeply First Person Perspective Journey Enlightens on the Universal Struggle
Jeffrey_Cheng8917 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"All those years, living the life of someone I didn't even know."

"This hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend. For I perceive the way to life lies here. Come, pluck up, heart; let's neither faint nor fear. Better, though difficult, the right way to go, Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe." ― John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress

Well, what to begin, unpack, go on, say with this one? How about we start out with a modern-day pilgrim who is wandering in an unholy and decadent land, seeking only to find the ultimate truth where there is none to be found. Optimistic that just around the next corner there will be the answer to his life's pursuit, but is constantly frustrated and disappointed by what he discovers. I supposed that is the best way, in words, to relate the story thread in the latest visual poem from auteur filmmaker Terrence Malick, Knight of Cups. Though that is completely insufficient to describing what the experience actually is. As with the rest of the auteur's indelible work, this is an auditory and visual journey of emotion, thought and self-awareness.

Rick, played by Christian Bale, is our wayward soul in the director's personal journey into consciousness, the sub-conscious and self-discovery. Rick is a well-to-do screenwriter living in Hollywood enjoying the spoils of his talent; getting into high-end parties, sleeping around with exotic women, mingling with celebrities and negotiating multi-million dollar deals. Despite all this success, he is adrift, detached and aimlessly looking for something more in his world. Though never stated out loud what that more exactly means, Malick's M.O through and through, it's the filmmaker's own way of making this otherwise first-world-problems themed film universal.

In spite of this spiritual emptiness he feels, Rick isn't always a dour and overwrought subject, he does enjoy on some visceral levels the lifestyle he has worked to. He's just not taken with what all that, he knows there must be something more to it all. The people that weave in and out of his life all seem to know what they want out of their time on earth, going about their lives with a sort of purpose alien to himself. His brother Barry, played by Wes Bentley, lives modestly in low-rent dwellings working on Philanthropic undertakings with the poor on the streets of LA. However, it is Rick's life of glamor and privilege that gets all the attention and praise from their father Joesph, played by Brian Dennehy, causing family friction between Joesph and Barry.

Caught between the two is Rick internally having to weigh the merits of a life of altruism vs. one of materialistic self-indulgent gains. A spiritual crisis rendered as only a filmmaker with as unique a style and vision can. In true Malick form, none of this is explained in dialogue it's done in purely visual language that the auteur filmmaker has honed and mastered over his lengthy and resonating career. This time perhaps the work sharing more in common with Documentarian Godfry Reggio's dialogue-free examination of modern society and man's relationship to it thereof Koyaanisqatsi in taking the viewer on a journey or overall detachment and dispassionate within our modern society. Rick certainly is leading a life out-of-balance as the main theme and translated title of Reggio's sweeping film.

Meanwhile, it is actually Rick's personal life that is firmly front and center in the narrative, namely his passionate relationships with six distinct women. Each providing their own insight into the man's fractured psyche. From the first of these on screen flings Della (Imogen Poots) "You don't want love, you want a love experience", to the penultimate relationship Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) "When I'm with you, I forget you". Between the detached spirit and the passionate lover it is a whirlwind journey of finding his own identity with these women for him, seeking the same lofty (perhaps unattainable) emotional goals and repeating the same past mistakes again and again. Just as we all commit in our own lives.

The late great Mike Nichols when asked why film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in Black and White answered that he wanted to make sure that his audience knew that what they were seeing wasn't "real". Film is a metaphor for life, not a stand in. Documentaries not withstanding, movies are inherently lies; Illusions carefully constructed to elicit an emotional reaction out of us. Those emotions we feel though are real, probably the most real things we have, thus films are lies but in service of truth. So Malick's personal style of visual metaphors and contrasting imagery (Needless to say all shot to perfection by Emmanuel Lubezki) is really not so different than the first visual trick in film history: Monochrome photography.

While internal and external existentialism is a corner stone of the filmmaker's mantra, what is different this time around is just how much we stick to a singular person. A first-person perspective that is very much a first-conscience perspective in just how much Malick puts us into the thoughts and feelings of Rick. In doing so, the director lays out the struggles of a complicated closed-off persona, in what would otherwise be a vast unapproachable mystery. Understanding the internal crisis and perspective of not just Rick but perhaps even the filmmakers behind the camera as well. An invaluable gift of empathy and enlightenment that pilgrims of old would search far and wide for. And despite all of this I feel that I haven't even started to really dig into this one, because just as usual there is so much more left to explore with this symphony of emotions from a true visionary maestro.


10/10 (A Sublime Journey Into The Subconscious, Spiritual Fulfillment And Epiphanies. A Uniquely Rendered Quest For What Lies Within Our Dreams And Deepest Desires, Revealing The Deeply Personal To Be Universal.)
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Rich guy problems...
KineticSeoul1 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very Terrence Malick film where the trailer is far more interesting than the actual movie itself. It's leaning more towards the experience side of things over story and character development. There really isn't a direction, but a guy experiencing the shallow, pretentious, fake and hedonistic side of Hollywood as a screenwriter. The cinematography is nice to look at, although it drags on a lot with it's scenery which seems to take up much of the screen time. There is hardly much dialogue in this, just bunch of quotes and philosophical stuff. The plot is about a guy who works in Hollywood delving and indulging himself temptations that goes with money, fame, power and connections. And in doing so he feels that he is losing his identity in the process. It's not as crazy and trippy as the trailer makes it seem. Despite this film being ambiguous and all, it's still somewhat easy to follow. Because it's all about the experience over a story. Overall to sum the plot of this film in a humorous way...The whole thing is basically a rich guy problems kind of deal. So yeah, it is pretty shallow and pretentious but the setting and cinematography is neat enough to draw in certain audiences. However you can experience most of the stuff in this film if you go to a night club, a crazy and wild pub or a strip club. It isn't a amazing artsy film I would watch again and it wasn't really enticing, but I give it a pass. It's not a awful artsy film but it wasn't thought provoking or impactful either.

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'All those years, living the life of someone I didn't even know.'
gradyharp14 July 2016
Writer/director Terrence Malick is Terrence Malick and either you relate to his films or avoid them. They are art pieces: not all art appeals to everyone. His films are an expression of a philosophy that the mind constructs all the input the eyes see and the body feels and while it may not make a story that is easy to follow (is there really anything to follow in any of his films?) it provides a unique experience that requires the viewer to relinquish expectations of storytelling and simply sail through the visual magnificence of the images Malick places on the screen and populates with enough characters to offer a hand during the journey he has shared.

Try to piece together a definition of the story and it comes in two levels: 1) 'A 30 year old writer (Rick – Christian Bale) indulging in all that Los Angeles and Las Vegas has to offer undertakes a search for love and self via a series of adventures with six different women.' And 2) A fable – 'Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep.' The sections of the film are named according to Tarot Cards.

The dialogue is mostly off camera (with notable exceptions) and offers some sensitive philosophical notes that accompany the photography and the essentially classical music score that illuminates the film. The dialogue counts: Joseph (Brian Dennehy) is the main character Rick's father and states 'You think when you reach a certain age things will start making sense, and you find out that you are just as lost as you were before. I suppose that's what damnation is. The pieces of your life never to come together, just splashed out there.' And there are many memorable lines – 'You live in a little fantasy world, don't you?' 'Treat this world as it deserves, there are no principles, just circumstances. Nobody's home.' All those years, living the life of someone I didn't even know.' 'No one cares about reality anymore.'

The cast, even if through very brief appearances, is uniformly excellent – Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Brian Dennehy, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Imogen Poots, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Cherry Jones, Jason Clarke, and too many others to credit. The magnificent cinematography is by Emmanuel Lubecki and the musical score montage is credited to Hanan Townshend.

Perhaps not a film for everyone, but for those who wish to expand their visual and philosophical horizons, set sail with Knight of Cups.
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Waste of time (audience) and money (creators)
carfan7245 January 2016
Maybe my German down-to-earth thinking makes me unable to like films like these.

I saw the cast and the trailer so I gave it a try. After the first five minutes I told myself "If this movie isn't changing in the next ten minutes, stop watching!". Unfortunately I kept on watching it and wasted two hours of my life.

The movie contains nothing but psychedelic background music, "artistic" camera movement and senseless sentences. Maybe some hardcore cineast or art student can like it, I simply can't.

If it was still 2014, I could say that this is by far the worst movie I saw this year.
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Furthering the divide.
Ser_Stephen_Seaworth31 December 2015
If To the Wonder was Terrence Malick's stab at a true tonal poem in visual form, Knight of Cups is what would happen if Malick gobbled a fistful of mescaline and went on walkabout in the Hollywood Hills. There is a freneticism to his latest film which feels at odds with Malick's usually languid tendencies; an urgency that is unexplored territory for the notoriously pensive director.

Ever since his 2011 opus The Tree of Life, Malick's films have taken on a bit of an autobiographical bent. I have long postulated that Malick's twenty-year hiatus between his second and third films was something of a research mission, where he drew material for future films from his own personal experiences, and that the intervening years allowed him to contemplate the philosophical ramifications of it all. If The Tree of Life was an ode to Malick's bygone childhood and To the Wonder an elegy to his tumultuous first marriage, Knight of Cups feels like a meditation on the disillusionment and discontent he must have felt on the Hollywood scene.

Following the lead of Hunter McCracken and Ben Affleck, the Malick surrogate in Knight of Cups is Christian Bale. His character, Rick, is an in-demand screenwriter, but we never actually see him work. Instead, Rick acts as more of a silent voyeur to the glamorous lifestyle of the rich and famous. He attends parties that devolve into bacchanals (one passed-out guy in a satyr costume really brings that imagery home), he canoodles with bombshells in open-topped convertibles, he explores vast marble manses that overlook the bum-packed streets of L.A. He's clearly doing well, but Rick seemingly exists in a state of an existential crisis.

The film's title speaks to a tarot theme, and indeed if Knight of Cups could be said to follow any sort of structure, it is through a fortune reading of Rick's life (which are revealed in title cards that split the film into chapters). Rick's headlong dive into the sensual overload Hollywood provides is an attempt at escaping something that pains him, and the source of much of that agony is translated in short bursts of filial backstory throughout the film. His younger brother (Wes Bentley) is living hand-to-mouth in increasingly desperate circumstances, and when they get together we learn of a third brother who may or may not have committed suicide. This really happened to Malick, and it was a theme explored in The Tree of Life (where it is implied Jack's brother died in Vietnam). And as in his 2011 opus, there are seeds of a parental theme. For me, one of the more enduring images of Knight of Cups is Dennehy's stout-shouldered presence as Rick's father. If we graft our memories of Brad Pitt's paternal performance in The Tree of Life to Dennehy's work, it creates a very fascinating arc of an old man bitter at how he treated his son growing up, and of a son bitter at becoming his father.

It's not just his blood relatives that gnaw at Rick, either. His estranged wife (Cate Blanchett) shows up, and while we don't really get much insight into what has brought ruin to their relationship, as much of their conflict is drowned out by thundering ambient score, all we have to do is transpose what we know of the crumbling marriage in To the Wonder here. I don't want to say that Knight of Cups needs the previous two films to truly understand it, because I do believe that a film should be able to stand alone and be understood, but it nevertheless does benefit from that extra shading. The consistency among the three films is bolstered by Emmanuel Lubezki, who was the cinematographer for this loose trilogy.

When it comes to the look of Knight of Cups, Lubezki scarcely lets the camera stay still, scanning through Day-Glo nightclubs and desolate L.A. scrublands with equal majesty. There's something almost Koyaanisqatsi-esque to this film, and honestly, I feel that Knight of Cups actually succeeds where I feel To the Wonder fell short: you could dice away all of the dialogue and I could still follow it and understand its message. Malick's journey into the abstract pays off here in a better way, as it frees him to indulge in some extremely trippy interludes (including a black-and-white slice of performance art that really feels like it was guest-directed by David Lynch).

And while Malick's notorious under-use of his A-list casts persists here (by the time Natalie Portman, the last in a long line of gamine gals that flit in and out of Rick's life, shows up, they've all blurred together), the actors haven't been the true focus of his films in decades, if ever. That said, several faces I never thought I'd see in a Malick film bob and weave through the film with surprising regularity. Hey, Joe Lo Truglio! Whoa, is that Nick Kroll? Who the hell thought Fabio would ever appear in something like this?

Knight of Cups boasts some striking imagery, but as he continues to carve a path through the realm of the abstract, stripping away plot and characterization in favor of mood, his fandom will be increasingly divided like the Red Sea. Some will shy away from his newfound tendencies as being desperate self-parody; others will applaud him for his boldness. I can't say for certain on which side I fall, but that's what makes it so exciting.
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