Thursday, July 8, 2010

Days of Heaven. A

Terrence Malick's movies definitely have an hypnotic effect on me. They're movies that do grab you, but not in the conventional sense. They don't pull you in with a twist or turn, but rather they offer something wonderful-a scenic view, a beautiful piece of music, or a perfunctory, but provocative piece of dialogue, to lure us in. One would think a movie like The Thin Red Line, which is a near three hour, self-indulgent, sedate war story, would be extremely tough to sit through. And yet when I saw it I didn't notice that it was long or slow because I was so caught up in the strange things this director was doing. I could say the same thing for The New World, which has a very similar look and feel. Days of Heaven, though clearly of the same mind, is a little different. It's short, only 94 minutes, and it has a little more of a plot than Malick's other work. But it still has that same visceral feeling that causes one to really gaze at his movies more than actually watching them. Days of Heaven has a remarkable score by Ennio Morricone, often cited as one of his finest pieces. I think it ranks ahead of his work in Duck, You Sucker, and just behind Ecstasy of Gold and the theme from Once Upon a Time in the West. Malick does great work with the story in Days of Heaven (it's unconventional, but surprisingly works really well), but its greatest strength is how he captures the southern life in the early 20th century. The movie's peak involves a massive invasion of crickets-perhaps the greatest nightmare for a farmer. Though Malick doesn't show them flying through the sky (they apparently would go in swarms that went on for miles), he indulges in several creepy close-ups of them chirping away in the fields. Malick loves filming insects, so this of course was a great chance to do so with a clear purpose (I imagine some impatient viewers get irritated by how often he takes shots of nature, animals, and bugs). Days of Heaven has deservedly been given a Criterion release on DVD. It's a handsome package with great picture quality and a bevy of good bonus features. Yet Malick's face can't be found because of his refusal to step out in the public.

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