Knight of Cups (film)

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Knight of Cups
The poster resembles a tarot card, with a man upside down facing sideways at the top, haloed by the moon. Below him are California palm trees with the Santa Monica Mountains in the background. Above the man is the tagline: "A Quest", and below the palm trees are the credits and title.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terrence Malick
Produced by
Written by Terrence Malick
Starring
Narrated by Ben Kingsley
Music by Hanan Townshend
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Edited by
  • Geoffrey Richman
  • Keith Fraase
  • A. J. Edwards
Production
company
Distributed by Broad Green Pictures
Release date
  • February 8, 2015 (2015-02-08) (Berlinale)
  • March 4, 2016 (2016-03-04) (United States)
Running time
118 minutes[1][2]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.1 million[3]

Knight of Cups is a 2015 American experimental drama film[4] written and directed by Terrence Malick and produced by Nicolas Gonda, Sarah Green and Ken Kao. The film features an ensemble cast, starring Christian Bale as the central character.

The film follows depressed Los Angeles screenwriter Rick (Bale) on an odyssey through the playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he undertakes a search for love and self via adventures with colorful figures, identified by eight tarot cards. The title of the film refers to the tarot card, the Knight of Cups.[5][6] The film is loosely inspired by, and at times quotes directly from, the 1678 Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, the Acts of Thomas passage The Hymn of the Pearl,[7] and Suhrawardi's A Tale of the Western Exile.[8]

After over two years in post-production, the film premiered in the main competition section at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival on February 8, 2015 to mixed reviews. The film was released in the United States on March 4, 2016 by Broad Green Pictures[9] to further mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike.[10][11]

Plot[edit]

Rick is a film screenwriter living in Los Angeles, California. While he's successful in his career, his life feels empty. Haunted by the death of one brother and the dire circumstances of the other, he finds temporary solace in the Hollywood excess that defines his existence. Women provide a distraction to the daily pain he must endure, and every encounter that comes his way brings him closer to finding his place in the world.

The film is divided into eight chapters (each named after a tarot card, except for the final chapter Freedom), plus a prologue, each loosely based around the central character's relationship with somebody in his life:

I. The Moon - Della (Imogen Poots), a rebellious young woman.

II. The Hanged Man - His brother Barry (Wes Bentley) and father Joseph (Brian Dennehy).

III. The Hermit - Tonio (Antonio Banderas), an amoral playboy.

IV. Judgment - His physician ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett).

V. The Tower - Helen (Freida Pinto), a serene model.

VI. The High Priestess - Karen (Teresa Palmer), a spirited, playful stripper.

VII. Death - Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a married woman with whom he has a relationship and who becomes pregnant with a child that may be his.

VIII. Freedom - Isabel (Isabel Lucas), an innocent who helps him see a way forward.

Cast[edit]

The film is narrated by Ben Kingsley

Production[edit]

Pre-production[edit]

In November 2011, the film was announced with Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and Isabel Lucas mentioned as cast.[12] It was also announced the film would be shot back-to-back with Song to Song, with production beginning in 2012.[12] For preparation, Bale read Walker Percy's book The Moviegoer, which was suggested to him by Malick. [13]

Filming[edit]

Production on the film began in June 2012, and lasted nine weeks.[14][15] During production, a lot of the cast and crew were spotted filming throughout Los Angeles County and Las Vegas by paparazzi, as most of the filming took place on the streets and in public places of both cities.[16][17]

Although a script was written, Bale received no pages from it, while all other cast members received only pages of internal and verbal monologue for each shooting day.[18][19][20][21] As such, Bale would later admit that while filming, he was unclear about what the final film would actually be.[22] During production, Malick would use a process he calls "torpedoing", where a character from the cast is thrown into a scene while the other actors have no idea that character would be in the scene, forcing the cast to improvise.[23][24] In addition to a traditional studio, the cast also recorded their voice-over work in nontraditional places, such as in a van or by the side of the road.[22]

Post-production[edit]

The film spent two years in post-production,[25] which consisted of a small group of editors in the beginning and widened throughout.[14]

Release[edit]

The film premiered in the main competition section at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival on February 8, 2015.[26] Shortly after, Broad Green Pictures acquired distribution rights to the film.[27] The film had its American premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival on February 7, 2016,[28] and was released in the United States on March 4, 2016.[29]

Reception[edit]

Knight of Cups has received mixed reviews from critics.[10] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 46% approval rating based on 152 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6 out of 10. The site's consensus reads, "Knight of Cups finds Terrence Malick delving deeper into the painterly visual milieu he's explored in recent efforts, but even hardcore fans may struggle with the diminishing narrative returns."[11] On Metacritic, the film currently has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[10]

Justin Chang of Variety called the film "flawed but fascinating" and a "feverish plunge into the toxic cloud of decadence" as Malick offers a "corrosive critique of Hollywood hedonism".[30] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said that the "resolutely poetic and impressionist" film "conveys most bracingly [the] fleeting nature of human exchange", but the end result "is a certain tedium and repetitiveness along with the rhythmic niceties and imaginative riffs... this one mostly operates on a more dramatically mundane, private and even narcissistic level [than The Tree of Life]".[31]

Some critics, however, were very positive, with Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com, who gave the film four out of four stars, stating, "Nobody else is making films like this. Not at this level...The sheer freedom of it is intoxicating." He did, however, acknowledge how it would be "impenetrable and intolerable" for most audiences, and that "Knight of Cups is not a young man's movie...[It's a] philosophically engaged, beatific, starchild-as-old-man's movie."[32] In another highly positive review, Richard Brody of The New Yorker described the film as "an instant classic in several genres—the confessional, the inside-Hollywood story, the Dantesque midlife-crisis drama, the religious quest, the romantic struggle, the sexual reverie, the family melodrama" and considered it "one of the great recent bursts of cinematic artistry, a carnival of images and sounds that have a sensual beauty, of light and movement, of gesture and inflection, rarely matched in any movie that isn’t Malick’s own."[33] Later, in a 2016 BBC poll, Seitz voted Knight of Cups the fifth-greatest film since 2000.[34]

Cate Blanchett's performance in the film was listed by Indiewire as one of the 15 best performances in a Terrence Malick film.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "KNIGHT OF CUPS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Terrence Malick's 'Knight of Cups' Gets a Long Synopsis and a Runtime". February 2, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Knight of Cups". The Numbers. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  4. ^ Smith, Nigel M (February 8, 2015). "Berlin: Christian Bale and Natalie Portman on Making 'Knight of Cups' With Terrence Malick". Indiewire. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  5. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2015-02-08). "Berlin 2015 review: Knight of Cups – Malick's back! With the least interesting spiritual crisis in history". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  6. ^ migration. "Terrence Malick's Hollywood odyssey Knight of Cups sets Berlin fest alight". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2016-02-11. 
  7. ^ "Berlin Film Review: 'Knight of Cups'". www.yahoo.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Interview: The Producers of 'Knight of Cups' Including Emerson Alumni Sarah Green". Emertainment Monthly. Retrieved 2016-03-22. 
  9. ^ McNary, Dave. "Christian Bale's 'Knight of Cups' Gets March Release Date". Variety. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c "Knight of Cups". Metacritic. Retrieved May 18, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b "Knight of Cups (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 18, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Lodderhose, Diane (November 1, 2011). "Bale, Blanchett to star in two Terrence Malick pics". Variety.com. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  13. ^ Patches, Matt. "CHRISTIAN BALE ON HIS LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH LA, THIN MINTS". Thrillist. Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Brooks, Brian (March 4, 2016). "Christian Bale Prowls L.A. In Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups'; 'The Wave' Rushes In: Specialty Preview". Deadline.com. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  15. ^ Goldberg, Matt (June 27, 2012). "Freida Pinto and Wes Bentley Spotted in New Set Photos from Terrence Malick's KNIGHT OF CUPS". Collider.com. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  16. ^ Dew, Blake. "Teresa Palmer Joins Terrence Malick's Knight Of Cups". WeGotThisCovered.com. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  17. ^ Martin, Nick (June 12, 2012). "Imogen Poots Spotted Shooting KNIGHT OF CUPS". Filmofilia.com. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  18. ^ Roddick, Nick (December 3, 2015). "Christian Bale: I have moments when I feel like Hollywood is the most horrible industry". London Evening Standard. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Wes Bentley discusses Knight of Cups and the Terrence Malick experience". Entertainment Weekly. March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  20. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (February 11, 2014). "Joel Kinnaman Says He Shot One Day On 'Knight Of Cups' And Had A 17-Page Monologue". Indiewire.com. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  21. ^ Jacobs, Matthew (March 4, 2016). "What's It Like Making A Terrence Malick Movie? We Asked 'Knight Of Cups' Star Freida Pinto". HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved March 6, 2016. 
  22. ^ a b Smith, Nigel M. "Berlin: Christian Bale and Natalie Portman on Making 'Knight of Cups' With Terrence Malick". Indiewire. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  23. ^ Jaugernauth, Kevin (June 3, 2013). "Teresa Palmer Talks "Torpedo"-ing Christian Bale On Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups'". Indiewire.com. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  24. ^ Ritman, Alex (February 8, 2015). "Berlin: Christian Bale on Terrence Malick "Torpedoing" Him on 'Knight of Cups'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  25. ^ McClintock, Pamela (May 15, 2013). "Cannes First Look: Terrence Malick's 'Knight of Cups' With Natalie Portman". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 23, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Berlinale 2015: Malick, Dresen, Greenaway and German in Competition". www.berlinale.de. December 15, 2014. Retrieved December 15, 2014. 
  27. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (February 12, 2015). "Broad Green Confirms Terrence Malick Deal Starting With 'Knight Of Cups' – Update". Deadline.com. Retrieved October 20, 2015. 
  28. ^ McNary, Dave (January 12, 2016). "Christian Bale's 'Knight of Cups' Set for U.S. Premiere at Santa Barbara Festival". Variety.com. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Terrence Malick's 'Knight of Cups' Won't Get U.S. Release Until 2016; 'Weightless' to Be Retitled". The Film Stage. June 20, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015. 
  30. ^ Chang, Justin (February 8, 2015). "Berlin Film Review: 'Knight of Cups'". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  31. ^ McCarthy, Todd (February 8, 2015). "'Knight of Cups': Berlin Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
  32. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (March 4, 2016). "Knight of Cups Movie Review & Film Summary (2016)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  33. ^ Brody, Richard (2016-03-07). "Terrence Malick's "Knight of Cups" Challenges Hollywood to Do Better". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  34. ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films: Who voted?". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  35. ^ Kiang, Jessica (March 3, 2016). "The 15 Best Performances In Terrence Malick Films". Indiewire. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 

External links[edit]