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The Better Angels (2014)


Peter T Chattaway
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Links to our threads on other recent or current Lincoln-themed movies The Conspirator (2010), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) and Lincoln (2012).

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EXCLUSIVE: Diane Kruger to play Abe Lincoln's stepmom in "Green Blade Rising"

As we finished up our talk about the most critically acclaimed performance of Diane Kruger's career-- as Marie Antoinette in the French drama "Farewell, My Queen," we chatted briefly about what she has coming up. . . .

And there's the film she starts shooting in the fall. Terrence Malick is producing "Green Blade Rising," she says, which is about Abraham Lincoln's youth in Kentucky, the years before his legend started forming.

"I play his stepmother, the woman who enticed him to read and put him on the journey to becoming a great man, a great thinker and president. It's a very American role, something very different for me. I have been spending all summer trying to tackle a rural Kentucky accent from the 19th century, so that will be a huge challenge."

Roger Moore, July 16

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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Speaking of Malick titles that could be Onion-style parodies...

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Diane Kruger Set For Latest Abe Lincoln Film, This One Produced By Terrence Malick

EXCLUSIVE: The 16th U.S. president continues to a hot box office commodity. The next film about Abraham Lincoln is The Green Blade Rises, and Diane Kruger has been set to play Sarah Lincoln, Abe’s beautiful stepmother. The film was written and will be directed by AJ Edwards, with Terrence Malick producing with Nicolas Gonda and Charley Beil. This version tells the story of America’s greatest hero, the hardships that shaped him, the tragedy that marked him forever and the two women who guided him to immortality. One is his stepmother, who becomes an influential figure for the future president.

The film is being shot in black and white and will begin production in the fall. It spans three formative years of his life in the vast wilderness of Indiana. . . .

Deadline.com, August 2

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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Hitfix:

... It's shot in black and white, which is something Malick hasn't done before, but the camerawork's gliding kineticism and porous absorption of light are dreamily familiar, or familiarly dreamy -- as are the film's preference for hushed narration over already spare dialogue, catholic appropriation of classical music and irregular, spiritually preoccupied narrative. A.J. Edwards is a student of Terrence Malick, and he doesn't care who knows it.

To dismiss "The Better Angels" for its obviously derivative qualities, however, is to throw an awful lot of baby out with the sun-dappled bathwater. To start with, if the entire enterprise were nothing more than a Malick tribute act, it'd still be a pretty good one: Edwards and cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd have an eye for liquid, land-attuned composition that can't be copied or faked. Shots convey perspective and psychology, not mere pictorial pleasure; there's no vacant prettiness here. But Edwards' feature also boasts some bold breaks from the Malick house style: there's an emotional and visual severity to the piece, and a preoccupation with rootsy Americana texture, that feels very much its own. (If you were to glibly pitch it to a studio exec -- and ensure you never work in the industry again -- you might describe it as "'The Tree of Life' meets 'The Turin Horse.'")

... Rather a lot happens in "The Better Angels"  -- life, growth, death -- though many viewers (well, many of the few) will conclude that not much happens at all; Edwards is more interested in how history looked and felt as it was being constructed than the construction itself. If the tactility and lyricism of his filmmaking were gained from time spent working with Malick, so be it; such qualities are a gift, not a loan.

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Terrence Malick admirers alert!

 

Wow.  I just saw a Seattle International Film Festival showing of this debut film by Malick editor A. J. Edwards about the childhood of Abraham Lincoln.  There is no surprise after seeing this to learn that Malick was one of the producers.  The surprise is that it's not one of his directing credits as well.  It displays so much Terrence Malick imagery, editorial flow, and thematic material that one is eager to see what Edwards brings to the table that will be uniquely own in his future films.  

 

But whether it be Edwards or Malick who is the primary "auteur," this movie is a splendid experience and one that should be seen on a big screen to better  enjoy its stunning b&w cinematography.

 

It's too early for me to say yet (as I'm still coming down from the "movie high") but I think "The Better Angels" will be considererd one of the best films yet about a piece of American history (circa 1817 in this case.)

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