The journey through CineFix’s best movies starts off with the captivating visuals of Malick’s Golden Palm from 2011. I had been metaphorically lashing myself for not having watched this yet: the mixed reception at the time of its release, combined with its acclaimed aesthetic ambitions, had won it a place on my ever-expanding must-watch list. A place, it turns out, undeserved.
The beauty of some of the scenes is as undeniable as, sadly, sterile. The editors’ choice of placing this movie right behind The Mirror and Samsara makes me wonder if this was a consciously ironical juxtaposition, for Malick’s movie seems to long for the strengths of both its neighbours, without managing to reach their same depth. It would indeed be possible to mistake a still from the Tree with one of the many magnificent views from Samsara, as in some cases they seem to be of the same representative nature. Malick’s, however, fail to reach the same level of universal celebration of life that Samsara achieves, because they disappoint in their artificiality and studied nature. At the same time, the Tree shares with Tarkoskvy’s Mirror a common theme of inevitability of past and pain, while heavily relying on similar narrative/poetical devices.
Moreover, it is tempting to compare Malick’s history of the universe with Kubrick’s origin of man in 2001… and why should I refrain from doing so? The sequences have more than a few points in common in their representation of a 21st-Century version of the great chain of being; however, while Kubrick’s apes effectively help the viewer take the first step on the journey towards the betterment of Man, Malick’s dinosaurs sadly lack the relevance to Grace with which the director probably wanted to imbue them.
In conclusion, what is supposed to be Malick’s masterpiece seems more like an attempt at borrowing from the giants to stand on their shoulders; unfortunately, the result only manages to further highlight its dwarfish nature.
After dedicating (too) much space to a disappointment, it is actually harder to write about a movie that I love deeply like Samsara (#47) and a heavy masterpiece like The Mirror (#48), on which I feel too humble to comment. The former is not a movie in the proper sense of the word, and it immediately brings me back to the heated discussions with fellow film nerds on what should actually be called cinema. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just highlight how many stories it manages to tell, with its complete lack of plot.
Finally what can I say, in a short blog post over The Mirror, which has not already been said? Not much, other than I agree on its inclusion in this list. Would I have placed it so far down? I’ll make a decision while I continue my personal quest. For now I can say that the space occupied by The Tree of Life could very well be used by Pasolini or Godard instead. To my eyes, Samsara should definitely dwell closer to the top, but I wonder if some titles I’ve never seen before will make me change my mind…