Recently, Ray Pride (of the excellent Movie City News) and I had a little exchange on Twitter on this very topic, a discussion that could foreshadow many a critical disagreement to come about Song to Song. Ray had posted the link to the trailer, and I wrote in reply:
Me: "where one gets to hobnob with screenplay-free movie stars improvising feverishly in pretty locations."
Mr. Pride responded: "I marvel at Knight of Cups and its slipstream of thought/regret made possible only by Malick's wild over-shooting and months upon months of finessing."
Me: "Yes, still, I tend to favor the emperor's clothes view of Malick. Much depends on how much the viewer is willing to buy into his pretension, and I like a good screenplay."
Ray: "And if you look at his earlier pages, you can tell he can write a screenplay. RADEGUND is reportedly the first of his fully-scripted chamber dramas to get produced."
Me: "Yes, but why bother now if he can get a-list stars to strain for effect for him? Why not embody pure spontaneity instead? Knight of Cups ended up being very pretty pretty pretension. Christian Bale was not happy."
Ray: "I wrote up my rationalization for KOC. Another eccentric perspective: those two movies were shot almost back-to-back, what, three years ago? Maybe at his age he’s now interested in making a few more finite productions rather than leaving a mass of sprawl behind."
Me: "I think he's just cashing in on his mystique. Real inspiration vanished back around the days of Badlands."
After that, our conversation ended amicably.
So, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps the emperor Malick wears clothes after all, and all will be redeemed when Song to Song opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 17.
But I doubt it.