I Found It At the Movies: 1998—The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1998: The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick)

It’s amazing to think about the career of Terrence Malick. He made two critically acclaimed films—Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978)—then disappeared for twenty years. I’ll never forget when I first saw this one. It was at my single favorite theater in all of Los Angeles, the Mann Village Theatre, in the middle of the day. I was up in the balcony, and the film left me completely mesmerized.

I’m in the camp (a small one, it seems) that considers The Thin Red Line their favorite of all of Malick’s films. Though his style always interests me, I like the way it works best here. It’s one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen. Cinematographer John Toll’s colors and Malick’s unmatched relationship with nature combine to create an experience that had synapses firing that I never knew existed.

Malick, like David Lynch, has such a liberated style that you almost feel like you’re in one of his meditation strands as his films unfold. A brilliant return for an American original. Malick is a real force, and I’m excited to see where he continues to go.

What moviemakers can learn: Malick is one of the absolute masters when it comes to infusing poetry into the cinematic medium. He does it particularly through his extraordinary cinematography and his wonderful way with voiceover. Study how he weaves the voiceover in and out of the film, using a tool that’s generally relegated to the background to elevate his entire work.

Other contenders for 1998: From this year, I still have some things to see. These include: Manoel de Oliveira’s Inquietude, Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma and Jacques Rivette’s Secret défense. At some point I’ll need to revisit Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration, as I struggled it with it the one time I saw it. But from this year I really like Warren Beatty’s Bulworth, Olivier Assayas’ Late August, Early September, Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66, Tony Barbieri’s One, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai, the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. I love Erick Zonca’s The Dreamlife of Angels, Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters and Hirokazu Koreeda’s After Life. And my closest runner-up is Eric Rohmer’s Autumn Tale.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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