Last night I popped in the Criterion Bluray of Terrence Malick‘s Days of Heaven (’78), intending to watch a half-hour’s worth before crashing. But I couldn’t stop watching. It’s only 94 minutes long but it feels “longer” in the richest sense of that term. The story is as much of an American tragedy as anything Theodore Dreiser ever wrote. I remember how floored I was after seeing it for the first time at Cinema 1 on Third Ave., and how a week later the bartender at the Spring Street Bar & Grill (where I was working at the time) was frowning and calling it piss poor. It’s a masterpiece — one of the saddest, earthiest and most visually ravishing films ever made. Imagine if Malick…no, don’t imagine it. The guy who shot this film in mid to late ’76 and then worked on the editing nearly all of ’77 and half of ’78 is gone…over the hill and into the next county. Malick will never blend his visual sense and editing techniques with a real (i.e., involving) story and compelling characters ever again. Okay, it’s theoretically possible but artists don’t backtrack — they can’t go home again.