Retrospective Rankings: Terrence Malick

Next to be given the Retrospective Rankings treatment: Terrence Malick.

Though he’s never directed a bad movie, something must be said about why most of his last decade of work pulls up the rear of my list. Yes, his latter-day style is a blood-red mooing rare example of a filmmaker crafting a personal, signature cinematic aesthetic, but the fact he’s minimally modified it from picture to picture is a classic case of diminishing returns. As I’ve posited countless times on these pages in regards to persona-consistent actors, such artists can carefully choose material that enters into a natural conversation with their (hold your nose) “brand”; our pre-existing familiarity acts as sort of lens through which to analyze each of their flicks, and these flicks should in some way enlighten new dimensions to their repeated approach. And yet, too often it feels like they’re shoehorning new projects to fit their language, instead of their distinct contributions serving and thus deepening the material.

Though Malick’s flirted with the wrong side of this dichotomy, watching his oeuvre back to back to back to so on and so forth reveals one of his macro-preoccupations, like a career thesis: dispelling us of reductive notions we may hold concerning various mythologies.

Thanks to MOMI for the retrospective.

  1. Voyage of Time
  2. Days of Heaven
  3. The Tree of Life
  4. The New World
  5. Badlands
  6. Song to Song
  7. Knight of Cups
  8. To the Wonder
  9. The Thin Red Line
  10. A Hidden Life

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