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Knight of Cups


Stars: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Freida Pinto, Cherry Jones. Voice: Ben Kingsley

Director: Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick is patently a unique cinematic genius.

Surely only a genuine movie mastermind could have raised the money to make the matchlessly fatuous Tree of Life whose British poster appeared to carry more ecstatic comments than possibly even the number of paying punters who saw the star-ridden show.

And here, too, Malick again serves up another stew of superbly photographed (Emmanuel Lubezki), superbly pretentious cinema whose clearly large budget enticed a galaxy of stars to waste their (and my) time and whose screenplay (by Malick) was apparently catalyzed, titled and created around tarot cards.

Malick’s cajoled cast includes Christian Bale (depressingly uninteresting, especially after his great work in The Big Short), Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy and Antonio Banderas. Wes Bentley, Frieda Pinto and Imogen Poots are also featured, plus Ben Kingsley but serendipitously, only as a voice.

And the plot?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Los Angeles screenwriter Bale wanders around looking for “something other, something beyond the life he knows, without knowing quite what it is, or how to go about finding it. He doesn’t know which way to turn”.

Just like Malick and his cast who, as the movie drags on apparently with not end in sight, also do not know way to turn.

Don’t let my alleged slice of the story fool you the way Knight of Cups seeks to do.

It’s only a guess. I am simply quoting from from usually invaluable Critics’ Crib Sheet aka production notes.

Another quote, when Dennehy says: “You think when you reach a certain age things will start making sense, and you find out that you are just as lost as you were before. I suppose that's what damnation is”, aptly summed up the show.

Presumably in creating Knight of Cups, Malick must have missed the hogwash tarot card whose malign influence ensures the filmmaker has delivered yet another bound–to-be-critically-adored-audience-ignored turkey. My only feeling of Thanksgiving came when the end credits finally rolled. Doubtless the film will end up as true delight for all committed auteurists. And insomniacs seeking solace.

For me, however, Malick simply puts the “rot” into tarot.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 07 May 2016