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Ron Reed

Days Of Heaven (1978)

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I saw this film tonight on the big screen, probably my third viewing. To my taste, a perfect film.

Certainly one of the astonishing elements is Linda Manz. What an unaffected, wild child performance. It's a privilege just to watch her: I feel so grateful she was captured on film.

Her voice-over;

Me and my brother, it just used to be me and my brother, we used to do things together. We used to have fun. We used to roam the streets. There was people suffering of pain and hunger. Some people their tongues were hangin' out of their mouth.

In fact, all three of us been goin' places, lookin' for things, searchin' for things, goin' on adventures. They told everybody they were brother and sister. My brother didn't want nobody to know. You know how people are. You tell 'em somethin' - they start talkin'.

I met this guy named Ding-Dong. He told me the whole Earth is goin' up in flame. Flames will come out of here and there and they'll just rise up. The mountains are gonna go up in big flames, the water's gonna rise in flames. There's gonna be creatures runnin' every which way, some of them burnt, half of their wings burnin'. People are gonna be screamin' and hollerin' for help. See, the people that have been good - they're gonna go to heaven and escape all that fire. But if you've been bad, God don't even hear you. He don't even hear ya talkin'.

a Russian Orthodox Preacher (John Wilkinson) reads a passage from the Bible (Psalm 90:4) to offer a blessing and thanksgiving:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. As soon as thou scatters them..

This farmer - he didn't know when he first saw her or what it was about her that caught his eye. Maybe it was the way the wind blew through her hair.

He knew he was gonna die. He knew there was nothing there could be done. You're only on this Earth once. And, to my opinion, as long as you're around, we should have it nice.

From the time the sun went up 'till it went down, they were workin' all the time. Nonstop. Just keep goin'. You didn't work. They'd ship ya right outta there. They don't need you. They can always get somebody else.

This farmer, he had a big spread and a lot of money. Whoever was sitting in the chair when he'd come around, why did they stand up and give it to him? Wasn't no harm in him. You'd give him a flower, he'd keep it forever. He was headed for the boneyard any minute. But he wasn't really goin' around squawkin' about it like some people. In one way, I felt sorry for him, 'cause he had nobody to stand out for him, be by his side, hold his hand when he needs attention or somethin'. That's touchin'.

He [bill] was tired of livin' like the rest of 'em, nosin' around like a pig in a gutter. He wasn't in the mood no more. He figured there must be somethin' wrong with him, the way they always got no luck, and they ought to get it straightened out. He figured some people need more than they got, other people got more than they need. Just a matter of gettin' us all together.

I'm been thinkin' what to do with my future. I could be a mud doctor, checkin' out the earth underneath.

I never been this rich, all right? I mean, we were just, we all of a sudden were livin' like kings, just nothin' to do all day but crack jokes, lay around. We didn't have to work. I'm tellin' ya, the rich got it figured out.

I got to like this farm. Do anything I want. Roll in the fields, talk to the wheat patches. When I was sleepin', they'd talk to me. They'd go in my dreams.

Nobody sent us letters. We didn't receive no cards. Sometimes I feel very old, like my whole life's over. Like I'm not around no more.

Instead of getting sicker, he just stayed the same. He didn't get sicker. He didn't get better. They were kind-hearted. They thought he was goin' out on his own steam. I don't know, the Doc must have come over or someone gave him somethin'. Probably some kind of medicine or somethin'. I could have just took it, put it in a ditch, like they do to a horse. They shoot 'em right away.

Instead of getting sicker, he just stayed the same. He didn't get sicker. He didn't get better. They were kind-hearted. They thought he was goin' out on his own steam. I don't know, the Doc must have come over or someone gave him somethin'. Probably some kind of medicine or somethin'. I could have just took it, put it in a ditch, like they do to a horse. They shoot 'em right away.

Just when things were about to blow, this flying circus come in. After six months on this weed patch, I needed a breath of fresh air. They were screamin' and yellin' and boppin' each other. He, the big one, pushed the little one, and said, 'Come on, I started, you stop.' The little one just started in. If they couldn't think of a good one to comeback with, they'd start fightin'. The little one said, 'No, I didn't do this.' The big one said, 'Yes, you did do this.' You couldn't sort it out. The Devil just sittin' there laughin'. He's glad when people does bad. Then he sends them to the snake house. He just sits there and laughs and watch, while you're sittin' there all tied up and snakes are eatin' your eyes out. They go down your throat and eat all your systems out.

I think the Devil was on the farm.

He seen how it all was. She loves the farmer.

He taught me keys on the piano and notes. He taught me about the parts of a globe.

Nobody's perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just got half-devil and half-angel in ya. She promised herself she'd lead a good life from now on. She blamed it all on herself...She didn't care if she was happy or not. She just wanted to make up for what she did wrong...The sun looks ghostly when there's a mist on the river and everything's quiet. I never knowed it before. You could see people on the shore but it was far off and you couldn't see what they were doin'. They were probably callin' for help or somethin', or they were tryin' to bury somebody or somethin'. We seen trees that the leaves are shakin' and it looks like shadows of guys comin' at you and stuff. We heard owls squawkin' away, oonin' away. We didn't know where we were goin', what we were goin' to do. I've never been on a boat before. That was the first time...Some sights that I saw was really spooky that it gave me goose pimples. I felt like cold hands touchin' the back of my neck and - and it could be the dead comin' for me or somethin'. I remember this guy, his name was Black Jack. He died. He only had one leg, and he died. And I think that was Black Jack makin' those noises.

This girl, she didn't know where she was goin' or what she was goin' to do. She didn't have no money on her. Maybe she'd meet up with a character. I was hopin' things would work out for her. She was a good friend of mine.

(Thanks to Tim Dirks for the transcription)


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Well, they're both about love triangles, and they both feature close-ups of fish. :)

And FWIW, to quote my blog post:

. . . the storyline is replete with plot elements that seem almost biblical in origin.

Richard Gere kills a supervisor in a low-paying work environment and runs away? Moses, check. Richard Gere passes off his lover as his sister, and then she marries the local ruler, as it were? Abraham, Sarah, and Pharaoh, check. Plague of locusts? Check. I think we even see a fox running through a field on fire.

And perhaps the biggest surprise of
Days of Heaven
? Malick can shoot and cut an effective chase scene when he puts his mind to it. It's not
all
slow-moving grass-waving-in-the-wind shots!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Both Days of Heaven and The New World effectively recontextualize works of classical music in the soundtracks. Not the first or the last movies to do this, but I certainly will never hear Saint-Saens' "Aquarium" (from Carnival of the Animals) again without thinking of Malick's imagery, and Wagner's "Das Rheingold" now seems transformed by its application to TNW. YMMV, of course.


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Well, they're both about love triangles, and they both feature close-ups of fish. :)

And FWIW, to quote my blog post:

. . . the storyline is replete with plot elements that seem almost biblical in origin.

Richard Gere kills a supervisor in a low-paying work environment and runs away? Moses, check. Richard Gere passes off his lover as his sister, and then she marries the local ruler, as it were? Abraham, Sarah, and Pharaoh, check. Plague of locusts? Check. I think we even see a fox running through a field on fire.

And perhaps the biggest surprise of
Days of Heaven
? Malick can shoot and cut an effective chase scene when he puts his mind to it. It's not
all
slow-moving grass-waving-in-the-wind shots!

Heh-heh. :) This makes me remember why I was so excited about The New World before I saw it. You make me want to go watch Days of Heaven again, right now.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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There is no contact info for Brett McCracken at his blog, at least not that I can see, so I hope he reads A&F.

Brett, if you're there (or should I say here?), at your blog, you list the Criterion edition of Days of Heaven in your pre-order wish-list and write: "FINALLY the Criterion snobs have realized their error and decided to give a Malick film the royal treatment."

On what do you base the notion that they are "snobs"? In the Criterion blog post that Jeffrey links to above, the opening paragraph states:

When I found out last year that we'd be working on
Days of Heaven
, I got goose bumps. It's always been one of my favorite films, and I had wished it could be in the Criterion Collection ever since I started here twelve years ago -- that and
Sixteen Candles
(I'm very diverse). Paramount titles were always off-limits to us, until last year, and when we put it on our wish list to them, I thought they'd never say yes. But they did.

Apparently it was Paramount, not Criterion, that was holding up this release all these years. And Malick has made only three other feature-length films -- which leads me to wonder what sort of relationship Criterion has with Warner (Badlands, 1973), Fox (The Thin Red Line, 1998) and New Line (The New World, 2005).

I know Criterion is (or has been) on pretty good terms with Universal (hence the Criterion releases of Spartacus and The Last Temptation of Christ, etc.) and Disney (hence the Criterion releases of films by Michael Bay and Wes Anderson, etc.), and I know Criterion released a number of MGM/UA titles before the studio re-claimed them and put out its own special editions (hence the now-out-of-print Criterion releases of Robocop and This Is Spinal Tap, etc.). But offhand, I can't think of any Warner or Fox or New Line films on the Criterion label.

By all means, though, correct me if I'm wrong!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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By all means, though, correct me if I'm wrong!

Well, Fox has licensed quite a few films out to Criterion as I recall, such as the Dassins and Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln. But I'm not sure if they've ever loaned them a contemporary film, let alone one of TTRL's stature.

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The first time I saw Days of Heaven -- only maybe a year or two ago -- I promised myself I'd move heaven and earth to see it on the big screen some day. And last November, I did. It was wonderful. I love it more every time I see it.

...So I finally got around to writing about it.

I should add, I don't mean to slag too much on The New World. It's clearly a work of brilliance, and on balance I still liked it.

Badlands, on the other hand. That I'll slag on all day.


Nathaniel K. Carter

www.nkcarter.com

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." - C.S. Lewis

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Your link didn't work on me, but I am wondering how you slag on those films specifically. I think there is a pretty clear telescoping effect in the voiceovers from Badlands to Days of Heaven to The New World. Malick has been so resolutely consistent in his Heideggerean sweep of the lens across his films that it seems like to slag on one is to slag on them all.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Your link didn't work on me, but I am wondering how you slag on those films specifically. I think there is a pretty clear telescoping effect in the voiceovers from Badlands to Days of Heaven to The New World. Malick has been so resolutely consistent in his Heideggerean sweep of the lens across his films that it seems like to slag on one is to slag on them all.

Oh, I agree that Malick's basically the auteur theory in action, and there is a consistency of technique, interests, and vision across all those films, although I'll cop to not knowing quite what you mean by "Heideggerean sweep of the lens." I have no qualms about Malick's talents and tics, just sometimes the way they're brought together. Just because all of the films are built out of similar elements doesn't make them all equally functional. The narration in Days of Heaven works, I think, because it's barely self-aware. I've done interviews with clients of A Community Place, a service organization I've worked for, and it reminds a lot of the best of those interviews -- people who never thought themselves worth explaining, who'd never worked out a monologue in advance, jumping around among small but fascinating stories that reveal the overall narrative by accident. There's a joy of discovery in it. And it rarely stumbles into the trap of expositing what's already on screen because it can hardly be bothered by what's on screen.

Sissy Spacek's character in Badlands seems self-aware on a surface level; I don't think she really understands herself or what's going on, but she seems to think she does. I get at some level the film knows that, but I find the whole thing tiresome. There's glimmers of interest in the sort of banal, senseless violence, a kind of inverse Bonnie and Clyde, that it portrays, but it never justifies to me the hour and half (and it seems so much longer) it takes depicting people who don't act much like people. I recognize an intentionality in it, which I respect, but I don't think that intention amounts to something really compelling.

The New World, like I said, I like better, and it retains a great deal of Days of Heaven's better qualities, but the narration and the story still seem more deliberate -- a lot of which is great; I love the contrast between John Smith and John Rolfe and why Pocahontas makes the decisions she does -- but it still doesn't have that same effortless quality that I adore in Days of Heaven, the things that make it not just good but sublime for me.

I haven't seen The Thin Red Line, so I can't really comment on that. I hope that helps, though. I'd have to go back and rewatch them to offer a more detailed critique, and while I might very well do that with The New World -- the new director's cut, for instance -- I can't say I'm itching to re-watch Badlands.


Nathaniel K. Carter

www.nkcarter.com

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." - C.S. Lewis

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N.K. Carter wrote:

: Oh, I agree that Malick's basically the auteur theory in action . . .

Hmmm. The "auteur theory" was rooted in the idea that directorial hallmarks could be detected in otherwise conventional studio product. Does that apply to Malick? (Or, one might ask, to any filmmaker working since the 1970s?)

: The narration in Days of Heaven works, I think, because it's barely self-aware. I've done interviews with clients of A Community Place, a service organization I've worked for, and it reminds a lot of the best of those interviews -- people who never thought themselves worth explaining, who'd never worked out a monologue in advance, jumping around among small but fascinating stories that reveal the overall narrative by accident. There's a joy of discovery in it. And it rarely stumbles into the trap of expositing what's already on screen because it can hardly be bothered by what's on screen.

Heh. For some reason I am reminded of this passage from Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (page 298 in Amazon.com's version):

Then there was the editing, which took over two years -- Malick was famously indecisive. Or just meticulous, depending on who's footing the bill. Says Jim Nelson, who worked on
Badlands
, "Terry wouldn't let go. He'd nitpick you to death." As more and more dialogue ended up on the floor, the plot became incomprehensible, and Malick struggled with various ways of holding it all together, finally seizing on a voice-over. Schneider showed a couple of reels to Richard Brooks, who was thinking of using Richard Gere in
Looking for Mr. Goodbar
.
Days of Heaven
took so long to complete that "Brooks cast Gere, shot, edited, and released the picture while Malick was still editing. 'Cause Terry couldn't find the movie."

Doesn't quite sound so "effortless". :)

FWIW, in a similar vein, see also Ty Burr's response to The Thin Red Line:

The idea to do the voice-overs apparently came late, in the editing stages. They feel like a desperate patch, too. And they're so bland and endless and affectless that they actually had me questioning Malick's earlier work. For instance, I'd always assumed that Sissy Spacek's monologues in "Badlands" were meant to ironically point up her inner numbness -- but they sound exactly like the words spoken by "Thin Red Line"'s actors, words we're meant to marvel over as pearls of plainspoken wisdom.

I wonder, are the voice-overs ALWAYS decided upon late in the process? Surely by the time Malick made The New World, at least, everyone must have been expecting this.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Hmmm. The "auteur theory" was rooted in the idea that directorial hallmarks could be detected in otherwise conventional studio product. Does that apply to Malick? (Or, one might ask, to any filmmaker working since the 1970s?)

That specifically, no, I guess it wouldn't (Though, I sometimes fell like animated films never got over the old studio process). I was thinking more generally, the idea that even though there are a thousand people involved in producing any given film, the director still has some sort of singular voice and can thus be thought of as the primary artist of a film. There are plenty of works for which I don't think that's a given, but for Malick it seems true.

Doesn't quite sound so "effortless". :)

Heh. If there's one thing I got from listening to the cast and crew panel discussion, it's that the film's production was the furthest thing from effortless. Effort the most. But it doesn't feel that way on the screen, which is nice.


Nathaniel K. Carter

www.nkcarter.com

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books." - C.S. Lewis

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Hmmm. The "auteur theory" was rooted in the idea that directorial hallmarks could be detected in otherwise conventional studio product. Does that apply to Malick? (Or, one might ask, to any filmmaker working since the 1970s?)

There are plenty of works for which I don't think that's a given, but for Malick it seems true.

The initial forays by Truffaut and other Cahiers critics into the theory did take place in analysis of Hawks, Wells, Hitchcock, and a few other directors that are considered studio directors, but auteur theory isn't limited to the way directorial trademarks relate to conventional studio trends. The theory is more of a description of how particular directors narrate internal and external states of affairs by intentional filming and editing techniques in such a way that we can see them testing and exploring these techniques across a body of work. New Wave critics spoke very specifically about certain directors. Bazin, and later Sarris, spoke of auteurs in a far more general sense. It has pretty much become shorthand for the democratization of film production - anything on theauteurs.com, for example...

So, Malick certainly counts. I can't think of many better examples of the Sarris description of an auteur.

Heh. If there's one thing I got from listening to the cast and crew panel discussion, it's that the film's production was the furthest thing from effortless. Effort the most. But it doesn't feel that way on the screen, which is nice.

I am so puzzled as to how that works. Malick is so heavy-handed and exacting and frustrating, but then his films are so light and effortless. And then even though the voiceover by now is such a Malick convention, I can't tune it out in The New World as easily as I can in Thin Red Line. At times it seems primitive, and even a bit shallow - but that is part of the point. These are America's first thoughts. They are going to be a bit clumsy. But I am obviously biased towards Malick, so take that with a grain of salt.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Finished this over the weekend. As a visual and aural experience, it was like being bathed in beauty. I can feel the tone of the film sinking into my bones, much the way The Thin Red Line needed to marinate before I really started to appreciate it. I know I'll be returning to this over the years.

That said, I really didn't take to the voiceover. It wasn't the words that bothered me, but the timbre of Linda Manz's voice, which grated on my ears most of the time she was speaking. Maybe that was the point - to counter all of this graceful beauty with something rough. Maybe I'll grow to appreciate it, but on first viewing, it's the one element that mars an otherwise sublime film.

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I just picked up our Top 100 entry #36, Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, from 1978. I got it for -- yes, you heard it here first -- $3 BIG BUCKS at Big Lots. I haven't seen it before.

Should I watch it? :)

Link to Jeffrey's Top 100 blurb, and to The New World.

Ebert:

Terence Malick's "Days of Heaven'' has been praised for its painterly images and evocative score, but criticized for its muted emotions: Although passions erupt in a deadly love triangle, all the feelings are somehow held at arm's length. This observation is true enough, if you think only about the actions of the adults in the story. But watching this 1978 film again recently, I was struck more than ever with the conviction that this is the story of a teenage girl, told by her, and its subject is the way that hope and cheer have been beaten down in her heart. We do not feel the full passion of the adults because it is not her passion: It is seen at a distance, as a phenomenon, like the weather, or the plague of grasshoppers that signals the beginning of the end...

"Days of Heaven'' is above all one of the most beautiful films ever made. Malick's purpose is not to tell a story of melodrama, but one of loss. His tone is elegiac. He evokes the loneliness and beauty of the limitless Texas prairie. In the first hour of the film there is scarcely a scene set indoors. The farm workers camp under the stars and work in the fields, and even the farmer is so besotted by the weather that he tinkers with wind instruments on the roof of his Gothic mansion.

The film places its humans in a large frame filled with natural details: the sky, rivers, fields, horses, pheasants, rabbits. Malick set many of its shots at the ``golden hours'' near dawn and dusk, when shadows are muted and the sky is all the same tone. These images are underlined by the famous score of Ennio Morricone, who quotes Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals.'' The music is wistful, filled with loss and regret: in mood, like "The Godfather'' theme but not so lush and more remembered than experienced. Voices are often distant, and there is far-off thunder.

Against this backdrop, the story is told in a curious way...

What is the point of ``Days of Heaven''--the payoff, the message? This is a movie made by a man who knew how something felt, and found a way to evoke it in us. That feeling is how a child feels when it lives precariously, and then is delivered into security and joy, and then has it all taken away again--and blinks away the tears and says it doesn't hurt.

My version is distributed by Paramount in 2006. Is there a huge difference between that and the Criterion release? It's in Widescreen and it clocks in at 93 minutes.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Seems like it could be a very beautiful film. Due to a barrage of PMs, I'll be receiving the Criterion disc soon. I've decided to postpone the second half and watch the whole thing when I get the Criterion.

It was a nice $3.00 investment, though -- it actually did get me to notice and try out this Malick.

I will say this up front -- the Criterion disc won't change the fact that I'm still going to be looking at Richard Gere. And when I look at him, I think, "Oh, look -- that's Richard Gere." And: "My, wasn't he a bit skinny back then?" And: "He looks like he just stepped out of the movie Grease!" He doesn't look half as tough as any of the fights he gets in, he most probably would've received a bit of a butt-kicking.

The problems someone above had with the narration, I'm having with the fact that it's Gere. The narration isn't bugging me at all, except that I can't quite place it. These people are supposed to be from Chicago --

that's, Tchi-kaah-goah, for the record -- and they certainly don't sound like they're from here, not even the posh north side. :)

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Persona wrote:

: "He looks like he just stepped out of the movie Grease!"

Funny you should say that:

, Gere understudied the lead in the original Broadway production of Grease (Barry Bostwick starred), and Gere took the lead when the play went to London.

That would have been in 1972. Days of Heaven was shot in 1976 but wasn't released until 1978 because it took forever to edit. (For more on that, see this earlier post.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The problems someone above had with the narration, I'm having with the fact that it's Gere. The narration isn't bugging me at all, except that I can't quite place it. These people are supposed to be from Chicago --

that's, Tchi-kaah-goah, for the record -- and they certainly don't sound like they're from here, not even the posh north side. :)

Given the massive diversity that did, and still, characterizes Chicago, does this even really matter? When exactly was it that people started having a "Chicago" accent?

Otherwise, this is one quality of Malick that I find very striking. Badlands has both Sheen and Spacek. Days of Heaven has Gere. Thin Red Line has... everybody. The New World has Colin Farrell and Batman. Malick is America's quintessential arty filmmaker, but his films always attract these massive names. I am not sure why that is, but I do like the way that Malick's films strip people of star power and force them to actually act.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Darren H wrote:

: Peter, how could you not mention that John Travolta was, in fact, Malick's first choice for Days of Heaven? I think it was his obligation to Welcome Back, Kotter that prevented him from taking the role.

Oh wow, I didn't know that. (Or if I did, I forgot.)

Of course, this was before Travolta had entered his music-oriented leading-man phase. (Days of Heaven was shot in 1976, while Saturday Night Fever was shot and released in 1977; Grease came out in 1978.) At the time Days of Heaven went into production, the only big-screen work that Travolta had done was a couple of small parts in The Devil's Rain (1975) and Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976).

M. Leary wrote:

: Malick is America's quintessential arty filmmaker, but his films always attract these massive names.

Hmmm. I don't know how "massive" those names were in the earlier films, at least. Gere had only two big-screen credits prior to Days of Heaven, and they were both fairly minor roles, to judge by the IMDb. (I think he had a more substantial role in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, but, as noted earlier in this thread, that movie was actually cast, shot and released while Days of Heaven was still in post-production; in fact, Gere was cast in Looking for Mr. Goodbar partly on the strength of his performance in Days of Heaven. It's kind of like how Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana became bankable names PRIOR to the release of Avatar, via Terminator 4 and Star Trek 11, even though they were actually cast in those films AFTER they had done their work on Avatar.)

Similarly for Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Spacek had only one big-screen credit prior to Badlands (a Lee Marvin-Gene Hackman film called Prime Cut); and while Sheen had worked extensively in TV going back to 1961, he had only six big-screen movies to his name prior to Badlands, none of which I've ever heard of before (except for 1970's Catch-22, where, if the IMDb is to be trusted, he had 10th billing, behind Alan Arkin, Bob Newhart and Art Garfunkel, among others).

If anything, I'd say it seems that Malick's 1970s movies helped to TURN his lead actors into "massive names". And even with The New World, the film was shot in 2004, nearly a year before Batman Begins came out, so Christian Bale wasn't that big a name yet (though he had certainly filmed at least part of Batman Begins by the time the cameras started rolling on The New World); and as for Colin Farrell, well, he did burst onto the scene in a string of movies between 2002 and 2003, usually in supporting roles, but it was never entirely clear that audiences had taken to him the way that casting agents seemed to; and by the time The New World came out, his only major film in over two years, i.e. Alexander, had been a huge flop.

The Thin Red Line is the only film of Malick's where he seems to have attracted a lot of names that were already big at the time -- including Travolta, George Clooney, and others who were big in the mid- to late '90s.

Though I guess the impending Tree of Life will fall into that category too, since it stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Spacek had only one big-screen credit prior to Badlands (a Lee Marvin-Gene Hackman film called Prime Cut)

Prime Cut is one of my favorite movies.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I will say this up front -- the Criterion disc won't change the fact that I'm still going to be looking at Richard Gere. And when I look at him, I think, "Oh, look -- that's Richard Gere." And: "My, wasn't he a bit skinny back then?" And: "He looks like he just stepped out of the movie Grease!" He doesn't look half as tough as any of the fights he gets in, he most probably would've received a bit of a butt-kicking.

The problems someone above had with the narration, I'm having with the fact that it's Gere. The narration isn't bugging me at all, except that I can't quite place it. These people are supposed to be from Chicago --

that's, Tchi-kaah-goah, for the record -- and they certainly don't sound like they're from here, not even the posh north side. :)

To be honest, as a teen I had the same issue with Gere (I'm not even sure how many films of his other than PRETTY WOMAN I had seen, but none-the-less I had this (irrational) dislike of him). But watching DAYS OF HEAVEN about six years ago cured me of that knee-jerk reaction.

Seriously, he is good in this film. And this film is masterful. It is my favourite Malick, and one of my all time favourites.

Get over it.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Anders wrote:

: To be honest, as a teen I had the same issue with Gere (I'm not even sure how many films of his other than PRETTY WOMAN I had seen, but none-the-less I had this (irrational) dislike of him). But watching DAYS OF HEAVEN about six years ago cured me of that knee-jerk reaction.

Heh. The first Richard Gere film I ever saw (and more than once, at that) was King David (1985). I didn't see him in another film again until Primal Fear (1996). I've seen nearly everything Gere has made since, and I have also seen that Kurosawa film he made in 1991 (i.e. Rhapsody in August). And Days of Heaven, of course. But I still haven't seen Pretty Woman.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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