Archive for June 22nd, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by James Clark


    The Coens’ rejoinder, in No Country for Old Men, to Cormac McCarthy’s sense of being driven through history like a hapless beast is in fact a variant to be savored in light of Terrence Malick’s film, The Thin Red Line (1998), derived from a 1962 novel by James Jones. Malick, during a twenty-year absence from sharing with us a work-in-progress sense of nature (physis) that is apt to not only puzzle but infuriate those who don’t see nature and its physics coming up with anything devastatingly new, made his way into a battleground that a persistent residue of Heideggerian chit-chat would not have prepared him for.

    In taking exception to Jones’ inertial account of the hellishness of war, Malick, to be sure, bequeaths us with a Niagara of philosophical conceits, generally appearing in the form of voice over from various American troops facing imminent death during an assault mission at Guadalcanal Island during the World War II, South Pacific campaign against the Japanese in 1942. These ponderings function like readily overlooked, largely atmospheric, vines in a landscape of virtually impenetrable, spectacular jungle, not merely botanic but dramatic. The portrayal of conflict under extremely high pressure insinuates, in tandem with cinematic portraiture of ravishingly beautiful land, sea and sky, an order of historical sensibility having been hitherto overlooked. And it is this troubling and exhilarating anticipation that the quiet deluge of soft and drawling explicit self-questioning endows with headway from the gut (or heart) if only we can recognize and linger with its cinematic, sensual function. (more…)

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