Terrence Malick is a great filmmaker not because he knows how to tell a good story, but rather how he puts together a stunning set of visuals. I have been mildly obsessed with his work over the years, seeing all of his films – Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World, Tree of Life & In the Wonder – multiple times at various screenings. The Thin Red Line is the most striking piece of his career not only because of the images… but more so the thematic nature of how these visuals are ordered, offering a trail of creatures – man included – from beginning to end, an unnamed narrator speaking in questions and poetry: Who are you who live in so many forms?
Your death encaptures all.Where is that we lived together. Who were you that I lived with?Darkness and light, strife and love…are they the working of one mind? The features of the same face?Oh my soul, let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes. Look out at the things you made…all things shining.I saw the film just last night…and already want to see it again.
My Bloody Valentine released a new album this spring, mbv. It is a haunting offering of distorted, crazed music, much like their great Loveless LP from 22 years back. I listened to the new album a few times and became obsessed with the second last track, Nothing Is, which I put on repeat and listened to 300-400 more times. I have come to listen to nothing but this song of 3 1/2 minutes – whenever I write, workout, or do anything with music. I’m listening to it right now.
I must admit to a history of obsessive music listening. My housemates in college stole the fuse from my stereo because of my addiction to The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station. I’ve obsessed over all sorts of music – NIN, Aimee Mann, Low, Fripp & Eno, William Basinski, Jesus Christ Superstar – often just a song at a time, and that over and over again. I was the perfect audience for Ragnar Kjartansson’s 12-hour performance pieceBliss, where the same 4-minute section was repeated again and again and again.It’s like a trap or a crutch or a refuge or just something I like too much, and I won’t stop until there is nothing left and I just can’t listen to it again…for months, if not years, and then just might start all over again.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of traveling around the world by water. It is an incredibly exotic and slightly terrifying thing to do. I am working out such a scene for The Ark. The question is which type of boat to use. Manpower? Windpower? Or horsepower?
As simple as Stephen Hawking apparently tried to make his explanation of the universe in A Brief History of Time, the read is quite a challenge. One needs to understand imaginary time, the theory of relativity, that light is both a wave and a particle and our universe is likely one of many. I have moments of clarity amongst others that are not so clear, black holes as it were. Hawking did say something recently at the California Institute of Technology that was simpler to comprehend: “We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity. I don’t think we will survive another thousand years without escaping our fragile planet.”
We went on a brief theater rampage recently, seeing Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, Lyle Kesler’s Orphans and Richard Greenberg’s The Assembled Parties. While there is something to be said for witnessing the likes of Alec Baldwin (Orphans) and Tom Hanks (Lucky Guy) on stage, those plays paled in comparison to the staging of Greenberg’s work, a drama that delivers interesting characters, sharp dialogue and a sprawling, rotating New York apartment. The piece centers on those who play the stock market, reupholster chairs at exorbitant cost and attend law school to delay life decisions, people who judge and glibly self-reflect, and yet are endearing in some aspect. The play asks much, answers little and lacks a coherent beginning and end…indeed is much like modern-day life. Interestingly enough, the play had to be recently edited after the Boston Marathon bombing, due to a reference made to a Harvard student making a bomb for extra-credit, an image that certainly matches the tenor of the work and our times.
To the Wonder is rich with Malickness: floating cameras, imprecise narrative and women, arms out-stretched, racing through fields. All of this is easy to love or hate – or love and hate – but in the end misses the essence of what is being offered. It is through the lens of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that we experience the wonder of the moving image, not only in nature…but, more remarkably, in the light and line of suburban life. These are the images that live in the corners of our collective memory. It’s the kind of thing that you think you’ve seen before and must see again.