Thursday, May 09, 2013

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) - Terrence Malick


It took me a while to get around to Days of Heaven. In film school, it was such the crowning example of natural lighting, magic hour shooting, masterful cinematography, etc., etc. that it kind of made me want to put it off as long as possible like a plate of Brussels sprouts. I knew when I finally saw the film it would have to be the perfect venue-- 35mm, pristine print, proper projection, all that jazz. Well, I've seen it twice now, neither time in the "perfect" format. The first time it was a letterboxed VHS copy back in the late '90s. This time, a brand new Criterion Collection DVD. Forgive me my trespasses, Mr. Almendros, for I have sinned not once but twice.

Will I ever see it on film? Maybe. Other than the stunning visuals (and they are truly stunning), there's not much else that would bring me back for thirds. The purposely "rough" Linda Manz voiceover (with flubs and all) didn't bother me as much this time and actually grew on me as the film went along. The centerpiece love triangle between Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard is muted and somewhat bloodless but a sturdy enough clothesline to support all the breathtaking scenery. It's a bit soapy, Harlequin Romance-y. But OK.

And how about that goddamn wheat? Man, it is some gorgeous grain. And those freakin' locusts! Malick gives more tender loving care (and characterization) to the average arthropod than to his people. The wheat and the locusts really should have received above-the-credits billing.

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