Monday, June 21, 2010
Third World's the charm
It may have taken me 23 days, but I've finally finished watching Terrence Malick's The New World, one of the most beloved films on the film blogosphere.
At the time it came out in 2005, I dismissed it as just another hyper-poetic exercise by one of cinema's true hermits. The man took 20 years between films from 1978 to 1998, and when he returned, it was in the form of The Thin Red Line -- which I considered pretentious claptrap up until a few weeks ago, when I revisited and found it to be slightly less pretentious claptrap.
But then I saw a couple different best of the 2000's lists on the blogosphere that had The New World listed at or near the top of the entire decade, so I knew I had to prioritize a viewing. It worked out quite well to watch it in conjunction with my revisitation of The Thin Red Line, to put me in that special Malick mood.
Except it didn't quite. About an hour into the movie, the DVD started acting up. Sometimes it would freeze, sometimes it would digitize away into little blocks. You could push through these problem patches by using the fast forward button ... except when you couldn't. I'd get stuck and try to move a whole chapter ahead, but that wasn't working either. I wiped the disc off, but found that it had a million little scratches that weren't going to come out through a buffing. It was a compromised product.
So I returned The New World to the library and placed it near the top of my Blockbuster queue, in order to continue my viewing. When that disc came, it took me a couple more days to finally insert it into the DVD player, at which point, the player wasn't even recognizing there was a disc in there. When I removed the disc, I saw that the thing was damn near cracked in half, completely unplayable. I reported the damaged condition of the DVD to Blockbuster, who apologized for the error and notified me that another New World disc -- which would be my third in total -- was on its way. You could imagine at this point I was doubtful I'd ever actually see the movie.
But the third New World disc was pristine, and I put it in the player on Friday night. Unfortunately, the film's beautiful, soothing imagery has a tendency to put you to sleep if you're watching it too late at night, which once again I was. (I'd had a couple short naps during my first attempted viewing, where I'd pause, sleep for 20 minutes, then start again.) And given that I was three weeks gone from the start of the movie at this point, I had to refresh myself a little bit on where I'd left off. After my refresher, the clock had passed midnight, so I probably gained only about 20-30 minutes of new ground on it before I was once again claimed by sleep.
Tonight, with only one more short nap, I finished.
Well, I don't think Terrence Malick will ever be 100% my cup of tea, but I do see what the other film bloggers admire about this film. In terms of pure physical beauty in the cinematography and the period recreation, it's up there with any film I've seen. But I must admit that the character voiceovers do verge on the excessive for me, as they do in The Thin Red Line. Unlike that film, The New World stays on the right side of the thin line between artsy and fartsy.
And now, to nap for the rest of the night.