No one cares about reality anymore: thoughts on the trailer of Knight of Cups

[To my review of The Tree of LifeThe Imaginary Family of Terrence Malick.]

“Before those Hollywood columnists get their hands on it, maybe you’d like to hear the facts, the whole truth. If so, you’ve come to the right party.” (Sunset Boulevard)

Knight of Cups is a movie about the movie world. An old and important genre where we find Sunset Boulevard, Sullivan’s Travels, A Star Is Born, In a Lonely PlaceThe Barefoot Countessa, Le Mépris, Mulholland Drive, just to mention some particularly well-known and important examples of an enormous list, that can be divided, at least apparently, in films about the old days (Singing’ in the Rain, Inside Daisy Clover, The Last Tycoon) and the present ones (not to mention the days to come).

The photographer taking a shot in Sunset Boulevard. Suggestion: read what I wrote the last post about cinepilia and photography.

There is an even bigger list containing all movies about what is behind some curtain: in theater, painting, advertising; and politics, love, etc. Conclusion? The curtain, the veil, defines this genre: if there isn’t one, you can’t discover the “whole truth.”

Badlands: Palm trees and a river/canal running through them.

The impression from this poorly inspired trailer (by Malick himself?) is that Knight of Cups might offer a different kind of filmic experience in some aspects. How different? After all, the trailer speaks about the palm trees (of Los Angeles, I suppose), those that tell you that “anything is possible” and palm trees already appeared in Badlands, in one of Holly’s stereoscopic cards: “Where would I be this very moment if...?” In The Thin Red Line we saw them again, through Private Bell’s eyes.

Apocalypse in Hollywood?

Regarding this coincidence, a story should be told: once there was a young director who debuted with a film about Holly...wood, Badlands.
Kit (not to speak of Holly) is, at some level, a product of the factory of dreams, an imitator of James Dean obsessed with fame and living in a world of his own where pulling the trigger is apparently not very different of lighting a cigarette. So if this first film showed us a rather ironic portrait of a movie-fan (who happened to be a serial-killer), this one is about the life of a movie-maker (someone involved in the process of which results a film).


Got the joke?

We can look behind the screen (Knight of Cups, supposedly), show what’s in front of it (Badlands, apparently), or contemplate what’s on the very screen. This third case, the specular film, the film about the film, inevitably contains the second (the director’s filmic memory). It might not seek to represent the object of the first (Fellini’s 81/2, another essential reference, does), at least as a material reality, but works playing these three keys of the piano are not rare (Singing’ in the Rain, for example). Of course that the “whole truth” can be that what’s in the back is what’s in the front: spectacle and speculum, the director’s and ours.

Cinema is strange, lot of people take it for a game... Place your bets! I leave you just a guess about the statue: Cocteau. I am going to restrain myself not to tell you about the rest. One film about the movie world is called The Player...

Already The Tree of Life contained something new with those computer generated dinosaurs, in particular. It will now be interesting to see how Malick will appropriate himself of an universe of delirious artificiality, not only interior, but exterior to the camera. Is our architect learning from Las Vegas? At times the trailer looks like the last days of Sodom by MTV. How will the metacinematic character of Malick’s work be affected? Will it become more explicit and traditional? Next year we will know.

La dolce vita