Wednesday, August 25, 2004

the thin red line

i am as biased towards this film as i am towards any stanley kubrick film. it is indescribably beautiful & brilliant. in a recent doco on kubrick, one commentator noted that lovers of stanley love him for very minute, detailed, unique reasons. this commentator was right. me, (sorry for the digression, no, stanley didn't direct 'the thin red line') i love stanley not for one film in particular, not for the breadth of his entire ouevre, not for the fact he revolutionised the use of music in film, not for such general-critical reasons. i love him for certain moments. moments which take my breath away every time. steven spielberg has said that, if you sit down to watch a kubrick film, you always end up watching the entire film thru to the end. can't say i agree with him. it might be cheating, but more often than not my experiences of kubrick come in glimpses. certainly, i've watched his films right thru, many times. but nowadays it's the moments which matter. the wonderfully stilted but courteous conversation between space professors/engineers on the space station hilton in '2001' (everyone is so beautifully courteous in kubrick films, it's almost as if he over-directed them to be robotically polite to one another). the ludicrously beautiful sequence when we first see the jupiter mission craft - the accompanying cello music like enormously mournful brushstrokes. from 'barry lyndon' i can name a dozen such moments. it is my favourite film of all time. i can't remember not crying during barry & lady lyndon's first gambling-table encounter. but enough.

'the thin red line' has become for me a kubrickian equivalent. it is an amazingly kubrickian work, only it is far more fluid & unrestrained than any kubrick picture. its classical score is diverse & free-wheeling, oftentimes extraneous - something kubrick just wouldn't have allowed. its ending is ambiguous, metaphorical even. kubrick's endings were notoriously ambiguous, but it was always a loaded ambiguity. you walked away thinking, devising solutions, re-thinking. you walk away from 'the thin red line' with a filmic vista in your mind. its voiceovers (various character's voices are heard as voiceovers) are far more florid & ambivalent than anything kubrick would've considered. which is not to say that they're not utterly, utterly honest & effective & apt.

where 'the thin red line' really turns kubrickian is in the use of faces. it is a film of faces. stupendously rendered faces. the bloke who went on to win an oscar in 'the pianist' - i forget his name - he was apparently shocked & appalled when he saw the premiere & realised he only had about 1 line in the film. but that was terence malick's point. his character - fyfe i think is his name - we remember his enormous, terrified eyes for eternity. just like i remember jim cavaziel's (that how you spell it?) wonderfully, wonderfully humane, gentle, & sometimes deadly expressions. he is like a latter-day warrior whitman. pensive, loved, loving, immeasurably brave. & what of nick nolte? surely the best film he's ever done. his character is established very early on via comparison - as we see him striding around a ship's bridge beside his superior (john travolta), we note the sadness, the concern, the worry in his face. it stands out so perfectly next to travolta's overplayed aloofness. & he has the voice to match it; a wonderfully senior, barking noise of a voice which echoes thru the picture. when malick finally captures him in a private, mournful moment (as he does throughout the picture - this film is almost a documentary, malick seems to drift thru the battalion like a documentary-maker, giving us snippets of the soldier's most intense moments of reflection), the effect is stunning. nolte heaves an enormous, stifled sigh, his mouth mildly open. any smoker would know that sigh, the one that makes you kinda swallow for breath deep down the back of yr throat. malick captures it.

enough for now. more must be said, tomorrow perhaps.


Blogger conno said...

Word up Foxy.

The description of Adrien Brody's haunting eyes in "The Thin Red Line" is perfect!

Whenever I think of this film, I picture Adrien looking so scared as to be almost suicidal rather than confront the horrors of battle.

I see Nick Nolte's veins bulging and screaming: "We don't need water!"

I see one of the Jap guys, after the Americans having run over their camp, bashing his head with his filthy, skinny fist.

It is a brilliant film.

12:31 PM  
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5:39 PM  

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