Sunday, November 11, 2007

Perfection, Thy Name is Malick

There are well-made movies, there are good and great movies, and once in a long while there are perfect movies-1978'sDays Of Heaven (Criterion, 95 minutes, $40.00) is one. Magically shot, wonderfully acted, hypnotically paced, this turn of the century dram moves easily from hardscrabble Chicago to Texas wheat country, a road film that transforms into a love triangle, set in one-of-a-kind landscape, filmmaker Terrence Malick poetically externalizes the internal struggles of his characters with an astonishing parade of transcendent images (mostly shot by the great cinematographer Nestor Almendros, helped out by cameraman legends Haskell Wexler and John Bailey). The movie’s hypnotic flow feels more like a book reading than a film, and young Linda Manz’s free flowing voiceover narration will stick with you long after the film is done, as will the faces and demeanors of all four principles-Manz, Brooke Adams, Richard Gere and Sam Shepard, the latter two arguably never better before or after. The very fact that this left field, out-of-the-mainstream, European-styled film was made, supported and released by a Hollywood studio just proves once again that the Hollywood of the ‘70’s was (and remains) an amazingly fertile workplace, a land of Oz that will probably never be revisited. The extras include a succinct audio interview with a smart Gere, crew commentary, interviews with Bailey, Wexler and Shepard, but alas, nothing from the notoriously elusive Malick.

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