Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Close, But No Cigar

Iron rule of FilmLand: Auteurs need editors. And reclusive, self-indulgent, often brilliant auteurs really, reeeely need editors. That’s what I kept thinking when Terrence Malick went off the rails in his beautiful and flawed “Tree of Life,” which is now playing at the Palm.

Years ago, when I first saw “Days of Heaven” I was blown away by the photography, but puzzled by the often slow pace and rambling non-narrative narrative until it dawned on me what Malick had created: Instead of the usual exposition by dialogue, he had created a Movie = moving picture(s).

Like “Days,” “Tree” also uses images and very brief narrative snippets as a form of poetic language thick with layered meanings that arise from the juxtapositions of the images. That device is particularly effective and powerful when used to recreate the way our memories work, with flickering, fragment-scenes from the past coming into focus, one after the other, seemingly making no sense until they’re begin to form a more complete tapestry.

In “Tree,” the “remembrance of things past” evocation of the main character’s childhood in a small town in the 1950s is exquisitely realized by those “moving pictures.” You can almost hear the bees in the hot summer flowers, feel the early evening breeze on your cheek, hear the creak of the huge oak tree in the front yard bearing the weight of the young boy in the rope swing that’s tied to its limb. The images recreate the sensory flashes caused by the way our own memories work. And perfectly illustrate the epigram from Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward Angel,” “. . . O lost and by the wind grieved, ghost come back again.”

And the fragment images also recreate the way our own personal narratives are so poorly understood, how little we know of our parent’s real lives, for example, or how unclear we are of our own journey and how hard it is to sort it all out as we’re living it and how nearly impossible it is to clearly see all of it much later. Our lives aren’t a neatly organized open book, but more akin to a folio of single pages that keep falling out and have to be stuck back in higgely-piggely so the coherence keeps changing with each reshuffling. And if a page or two gets lost, the meaning will forever remain obscure.

Unfortunately, in retelling the story of the narrator’s search for meaning in his life, Malick stuck in an endlessly long, visually beautiful but pointless “creation of the universe,” “2001-type” “trip” that ended with an encounter between two dinosaurs, one of which scampers away, while the audience snoozed or scratched their heads and wondered if this were some kind of “Candid Camera” auteur joke. And then ended his film with his version of heaven: a flat, wet beach at sunset (?) sunrise (?) with friends and family wandering around with love in their hearts and silly grins on their faces, an image so clichéd I kept looking around for the puffy clouds and harps.

In short, “Tree of Life” is an amazingly flawed film in need of an Editor who would constantly keep asking Malick: “O.K. What is the Basic Question here?” And when Malick wandered off to doodlebug in the Realm Of Precious ME, the Editor would get out the scissors.

But, if you love film, I still recommend you see it. Like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when Malick’s good, he’s very, very, very good and the movie within a movie in this movie is an amazing piece of visual poetry with powerfully realized performances and drop dead gorgeous photography – the work of a genius auteur with a singular vision. And in need of an Editor.

Thanks, Sam.

The dysfunctional State Legislature went by themselves to the Marriage Counselor because their Republican spouse refused to go and kept saying, “I’m not going to change anything. I don’t have anything to do with the mess this marriage is in. It’s all your fault and since you’re the one with the problem, you go solve it yourself.”

So they did, passing a draconian budget because the state’s Republicans have all taken a Blood Oath, not to the state’s Constitution, but to Grover Norquist, so even if the state falls into wrack and ruin, they will not ever, ever vote even so much as one tax on gazillionaires or corporation or anybody, ever, ever. Indeed, they wouldn’t even simply vote to keep taxes at their current levels or even allow voters to vote on keeping those current levels which would have prevented further cuts to schools and universities. Nope, not their problem.

So, when you see your kid’s schools being really hurt, or your favorite state park is closed, or know any poor, old/young, sick people that will now be kicked to the curb (so as to keep even one millionaire from paying a modestly increased tax on his yacht) you can call up Sam Blakeslee and say, “Hey, thanks Sam.”

Meanwhile, the Dems managed to stick in some “taxes,” like requiring pay sales tax for purchases made by Ca. residents (good luck with that, I’m sure that’s heading to court as I type) and includes a few bumps to car registration fees (a whopping (?) $12 a year. Gosh, be still my heart and don’t ask why I should be charged $12 a year for my little car while a millionaire isn’t getting dinged for his yacht – go ask Sam that question.)

And so it goes. If the smiley-faced budget’s projected windfalls don’t come to pass, the cuts will get deeper yet. The happy news is the voters are to blame for whatever falls down on them. After all, they elected all those Grover Norquistians. And Grover, as you know, wants The State drowned in the bathtub, so he doesn’t care if you drown along with it.

If you’re unhappy about that blood oath, hey, if you voted for Sam, you’re getting exactly what you asked for. So, shush up.

It’s All Moot Anyway

Well, not to worry about any of it. Gay marriage is now legal in New York. Stand back. The Republic will crumble into ruin shortly.


Spectator said...

Ann, what you need to do is learn to enjoy a Panama cigar that can be bought here in Panama for $1 but sells in California for $8, and watch the hummingbirds. So you would like to remove business deductions from yacht use? Do you have any idea what it takes to deduct the use of a yacht? Or a corporate plane? Your anointed one would wish to interfere with commerce. What about the workers who make such? Of course, with socialism, commerce would mean nothing. So you still would want the government to provide you healthcare for free? Well, go to the emergency room. Socialism at it's best! The rest of us pay for this. How about food stamps? The productive pay for this. Anybody check for drug addiction for those on food stamps?

And you pick on Blakeslee. What blood oath? There are multitudes taking advantage of the generosity of government. It's called gaming the system.

People are not like dogs, they do not need to be on a leash, fed and controlled by their owner. Socialism makes us dogs. Capitalism produces freedom. And we all have the right to fail (or do we?). One learns through failure.

I did not hear you complaining about Pelosi's use of a special jet at taxpayer expense, Michelle Obama in Africa at taxpayer expense, Obama on the golf course or on vacation when he should be looking to job creation (not government employee creation). How about Al Gore burning up the skys and making money on carbon credits?

The tea party movement is the answer. Enough is enough!

Churadogs said...

Sam Blakeslee signed Grover Norquists "Oath" that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes, ever, ever. He was roundly criticized for putting Grover Norquist above his constitutional duties and his duties to the welfare of his constitutents. He later (after getting re-elected, of course) claimed he wouldn't take any more of those tpes of oaths, heh-heh. How do you spell Political Expediency?

Churadogs said...

Jon also sez:"The tea party movement is the answer. Enough is enough"

Ah, yes, Michelle Bachman running for President as the head of the Tea Party caucus by railing against wicked government hand-outs while her husband's business and her in-law's farm got buckets full of government subsidies and while she cheerfully lobbyied for lots of nice pork for her district. Ah, yes, The Tea Party. Michelle and her Party will solve the country's problems, alright.

Spectator said...


Since when is raising taxes a benefit to any constituents? I look at it as theft when it is obvious that the government gets more than enough taxes when you consider the amount of waste.

You will never convince me that we do NOT need taxes: they are important to provide services and security that we desire. However, the system is being gamed by corporations and individuals, and votes are being bought from those who would be far better off without re-distribution of wealth. Certainly we need to help people who can't help themselves; we need to give them a hand up, and make them productive. Productive people benefit all of us. But those who are dopers and boozers won't help themselves and they deserve nothing until they try.
Take a look at the salaries given to some of your favorite government people who are working on the sewer. Look at union pay and benefits in relation to private pay and benefits. These are the wicked handouts that the tea party is against. And this is by law. It stifles competition and we all pay for it in increased cost of goods and services in the US. But not here in Panama, and our national product is increasing by better than 5% a year.
As far as pork is concerned, Lois Capps has been working to get as much pork for the sewer as she can. Yes, those who don't want their taxes or payments raised love pork.

This is the nature of a republic. We are not a democracy with crowd rule. We vote for those who can do best for us as individuals, even though we know we don't deserve it.
We vote for the people who will give us the most for nothing, be it wealth, health, or freedom.

Don't ever preach to me about the greed of corporations, it is equal to the greed of the individuals within the masses. And individuals are stockholders in corporations.

With socialism, he state owns and controls wealth (capitol goods). And at this time we are mostly a socialistic state. The government owns the dollar. The dollar is just based on faith, and I have little faith in the dollar, as do many nations in the world. Look to gold.

We are both old, and we must consider our children. What has changed in the past thirty years? Were you happy then, are you happy now? Do you think we will be passing on a better world to our kids and grandkids like our parents thought?

I think freedom in the US will soon be lost unless big changes are made to revert back to the original concepts in our constitution. We need less government and more freedom. We cannot afford big government and the waste involved.

It is only the tea party that is really vocal against big government and deprivation of freedom. Enough is enough.

Churadogs said...

Jon sez:"However, the system is being gamed by corporations and individuals,"

Yup, like Michele Bachmann and her hubby, eh?

M said...

And Diane Feinstein and her husband, Nancy Pelosi and her husband.
Sincerely, M

Billy Dunne said...

Hey Jon, thanks for enlightening us about the credibility of the tea party. I mean, since you have so much of it yourself:

"The poem is perfect! Beautiful day: my team won the super bowl and I have just received pictures and proof of an authentic long form birth certificate for Barack Hussein Obama 2 born in Mombassa Kenya. His mom had him there and six days later flew back to Honolulu to get his live certificate of birth and put a notice in the papers.

We shall see what comes of this with Republicans in control of the house. The info will be everywhere shortly, and Glen Beck who has castigated the "birthers" will be eating crow."

Where the hell is the info my friend? Or have you tea baggers moved on from this? You guys are a riot!

Churadogs said...

Ah, yes, the long form birth certificate. Something equally funny occurred to me. Being an ex-pat, Jon clearly loves 2 & 3rd world countries, wherein the gap between rich and poor is huge and there is little to no middle-class. If you're rich in such countries, you live really well indeed. If you're not, well, not so much. With 30 years-plus of middle-class-gutting Republican policies and now the Tax-Breaks-For-The-Rich/Slash-Medicare & Social Security-for-the-middle-class-and-kick-the-poor-to-the-curb,Fake-Trickle-Down Plans being pushed by both Repugs & Tea Partiers, America is rapidly turning into a 2nd & 3rd world country, so pretty soon Jon can move back home and feel right at home. What's not to love about that?

Alon Perlman said...

Days of Heaven- one of my favorites too, but hard to recommend. Malic was labeled "Visual Poet" even before that film. A creator of a mood, more than a teller of a story. One of the actresses was also in "Gummo", which is the antithesis. More like a gritty third world documentary’s look at America. A common theme though-
maintaining a personal dignity, though destitute.

Speaking of dignity-
Bachman and lesser made for TV Palin clones. New faces?
Cartoons of themselves.
Schaflies and Anita Bryants Grass root values?

Values??? What happened to the party of
William F. Buckley, Jr.?

Churadogs said...

Alon sez:"Values??? What happened to the party of
William F. Buckley, Jr.?"

It was eaten alive by the inheritors of the John Birch Society and has now skewed so far right that even modest/moderate NYT columnist David Brooks now has concluded that, as presently constituted, the Republicans are not fit to rule. Yikes!

Spectator said...

Just to make your day!

Billy Dunne said...

And a question for your day, Jon:

Take a look at this chart and tell us why only now the national debt is of concern to you and your fellow baggers:

Also, where's the dang "authentic long form birth certificate for Barack Hussein Obama 2 born in Mombassa Kenya?" Still waiting.

Churadogs said...

Re the national debt, wasn't it Cheny who famously said, deficits don't matter? I guess he forgot to say, "deficits don't matter if your're a Republican in office, but if you're a Republican trying to get back into office, then they're the most important thing in the world!!!"

I still want to see that Kenya long form birth certificate because I'm still trying to figure out how the Obamas smuggled little Barry into the country. Walk in from Nogales? Hitch a ride on the back of a catttle truck in Nuevo Loredo with little Barry going Waaaa, waaaa all the way to Austin? What?