Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Thin Red Line. Ten years later it still brings tears to my eyes

With 'Crank 2' still on my to-go-and-watch list and with the 'Watchmen' review postponed indefinitely - at least until the moment I go through the comic book to decide whose fault was the abundance of hanging and dangling blue penii - I started worrying I'm running out of targets for my regular exercise in shit slinging. Then it dawned on me that I still haven't fulfilled my long treasured dream - to rip apart the 'Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen' into millions of little pieces, fuck each one piece separately, "make 'em eat our shit, then shit out our shit, then eat their shit which is made up of our shit that we made 'em eat" etc. © 2001 JSBSB, you get the picture. This is the movie whose mere mentioning always inexplicably summons the phrase 'Explosive defecation' in my mind, the most over praised, tedious, boring, pretentious heap of stinking crap ever, period - 'The Thin Red Line'. Did I mention also it was fucking long?

A little flashback... So ten years ago (give or take) there I was, clutching an invitation to a premiere and finding a way to my seat in the theater. The only thing I knew about 'The Thin Red Line' back then was that it featured literally several hundreds of stars and that it had been hailed as the long awaited come back of some obscure recluse director who had done something supposedly great a couple of centuries ago and then disappeared out of the spotlight. Being still a naive youngster, I immediately compared that to Salinger's voluntary withdrawal from the public attention. From the current perspective, the main reason Terence Malick kept himself away from directing must have been the fact he knew better than anyone else how limited his abilities were. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then, but making more movies would be pressing his luck. So he kept his past glory and shroud of mysterious charm and the audience kept their sanity until (obviously, some guesswork on my part is involved) some executive asshole decided to lure him out with a large lump of freshly printed in green portraits of assorted POTUSes. Artsy halo in one hand, the wad in the other - the result is quite predictable, artsy shit gets flushed down and twenty years of peaceful (for the rest of the world, that is) existence are over.

So... the movie started. Sort of. Twenty minutes into it I was still waiting for something to happen or some of the big stars to wander into the frame. Another twenty minutes later - still waiting. An hour deep into it I was starting to wonder whether there would be enough time for some events at all with only half an hour left (yeah, right... blessed are the believers). For a movie depicting the events of Battle of Guadalcanal this one was surprisingly uneventful, most of the three hours were spent on a bunch of soldiers walking aimlessly through some jungle. One of them (and to this day I can't tell exactly who) was having some weird flashbacks of kids playing in the water and diving somewhere - no hint where, just someplace else. Another (also unidentified) was writing a letter to his wife/fiancee/whatever in his mind and for some time I hated him with passion because of the molten cheese dripping from the mind-raping pseudo-poetic phrases that I could attribute only to a dog, if it learned some human language. The camera wanders around in random directions, sometimes taking clues from the retarded voice-over (I bet by now you can tell how much I love voice-overs) - like the voice-over going 'Is there a God in Heaven?' and the camera turning up to show us the sky, then the voice-over, faltering, 'How can He bear this on the Earth?', camera obediently turning down. Beuark! But as much as I hated the voice-over and the suffering anonymous emo poetic motherfucker, there was a recurring (recurring - like twenty fucking times) scene that drove me totally berserk - and I mean axe-wielding eyes popping out with red hot rage berserk. The scene in question was of a crocodile (caiman, alligator, whatever fucking reptile) slowly submerging into some murky water. Slowly - much more slowly than, say, speedy objects like the minute hand of a watch. I guess I'm too dumb and I can't appreciate the symbolic meaning the Great Maestro™ put in this, but if its twenty something instances had been cut off, the movie would fall into the short category. And I wish it did, because watching the same caiman or whatever dive for the umpteen fucking time, when you just want to go out and take a leak (three hours, remember), makes even the most peaceful person want to grab that crocodile and beat the director with it to first death (his or the crocodile's).

What about all the stars? Well, it turned out all the big names appeared for mere seconds in some small cameos, most of them appropriately retarded to match the level of the movie - Woody Harrelson threw the pin and kept the grenade (yep, the drill sergeant’s equivalent of urban legends), Nick Nolte gave the dumbest orders of any fictional military, 'Catch 22' included, pseudo pep speech by Travolta and pretty much that's it. 

Later I read somewhere that the original cut had been in the nine hours range... I shiver at the thought how many more times that crocodile would reappear in that version, the fucking animal would have more time on screen than Jack Nicholson in his entire career. If someday that director's cut sees the light of the day (on 48 Blu-ray disks, I bet), I'm buying a set to decorate my privy's walls, its effect on bowel movement can not be understated.
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  1. This film is quite possibly the most poetically disturbing, gut-wrenchingly beautiful films ever made. THE greatest war film in history. Terrence Malick is a genius.

  2. Quite possibly so. You are, needless to say, entitled to your opinion, one man's meat is another man's poison et caetera, et caetera. I just might not be up to the audience standard expected by the director, but be that as it may, the way I perceive this movie is already set too deep to be changed. Which is the reason I can only agree on the 'gut-wrenching' part of your first sentence, the second and the third need question marks to make sense to me :)

    Even if I didn't hate the way this movie was made, I still find its message beyond shallow and the way it was delivered beyond annoying. So forgive me, if I reward the capital THE to another war movie...

  3. I can definitely understand your position. Though I disagree on this particular film, there are others that I would echo your sentiments exactly. Too many movie-lovers simply take the critics' word for it when forming opinions and try to force themselves to like the movies that they're "supposed" to like.

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  5. Eric, don't pay attention to them. What makes this film even more special is that not everybody gets it. i\I wouldn't like the idea that one of my favorite films of all time is also on everybody's "must watch list".

  6. Thank you, Alex, for condescending and showing the errors of our ways to us, the lesser beings not elevated enough to appreciate the true Art, who even dare to express their opinion. Of course, true Art is (as it should be) only available to few enlightened superiors on appropriately high horses, so your scorn is well deserved. Please, continue enjoying this masterpiece and rest assured, being one of the chosen few who understand it most certainly distinguishes you from the lowly plebs.