Respected and renowned for his whispery mood-trip films and for indulging in meditative reveries to a point that these reveries become the whole effing movie, Terrence Malick seemingly lives in a state of coddled denial. His producers, Sarah Green and Nicolas Gonda, apparently see to that. He lives to “paint” and dither and toss lettuce leaves in the air. Indulged and allowed to operate within his own cloistered realm, Malick doesn’t just take eons to edit his films — he apparently decides not to make films that he intended to make if the elements don’t feel right or…you know, if they haven’t come together in his head or if he needs to shoot a bit more or whatever.
This is indicated by a 7.21 New York Post story by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein that says Seven Seas Partnership, a London-based company, is suing Malick for the $3.3 million it provided to fund Malick’s Voyage of Time, which was supposed to be some kind of trippy, loose-shoe cosmic IMAX trilogy that would have amounted to two (2) 45-minute IMAX films plus a feature. Who would want to watch that much footage or that many films about the origins of earthly creation or whatever the fuck by way of Malick’s fingerpaint mise en scene?
Especially given a reported letter sent to Malick by special-effects maestro Douglas Trumbull in which Trumbull said that “not even the greatest special effects can save a film.”
Yesterday afternoon Deadline‘s Michael Fleming posted a response to the Seven Seas lawsuit from attorney Maura Wogan of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, who represents Malick’s production company Sycamore Pictures LLC: “The claims of Seven Seas are without merit. The film was on budget, on schedule, and all funds were used appropriately. Additionally, Seven Seas’ decision to file this lawsuit under the cover of darkness and go public before presenting Sycamore with a copy of the suit itself speaks to the weakness of the allegations.”
Don’t kid yourself. This is all about Malick dithering and wackadoodling his way into a creative corner and a non-coddling financial partner getting fed up and and saying “what the fuck?”
“Malick’s endless dilly-dallying indicates that Green and Gonda are not forcing the issue,” I wrote last year, “and have decided to serve him in a passive, whatever-Terry-wants sort of way. They appear to be hand-holders, friends, toadies, facilitators, go-alongers, enablers. The result, I believe, is that Malick, who needs a tough Bert Schneider-resembling producer who will get in his face and save him from his worst tendencies, has been all but enabled to death.”
In a 5.18.12 interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Pamela McClintock, FilmNation’s Glen Basner said he “hit it off with Sarah Green and Nick Gonda, two of the producers of [To The Wonder]. We were very like-minded people and maintained a friendly relationship. They were looking to make his next movie more outside the system, allowing Terry to have a process that works best for him, and we devised a way to finance the movie that met all of those needs.”
“Malick is a fascinating, highly educated sea captain-auteur who has always followed his heart and has taken his three-masted schooner around the world to exotic and illuminating destinations, but he has almost always been impractical and unreasonable, and he’s been known to allow his canvas sails to become ripped and tattered. He’s almost like a kindly, gentle-mannered version of Captain Ahab — a man tasked with delivering oil to the people of New Bedford but who has other business to take care of. That ‘other business’ has resulted in some great filmmaking, but Malick needs a strong Starbuck in his life.
I also wrote in a related piece that Malick’s method of shooting and particularly editing “strikes me as random and swirly and catch-as-catch-can, and in a strange way almost forced. He shoots what he shoots and then he tosses the lettuce leaves into the air and grabs a leaf here and there and eliminates Sean Penn‘s Tree of Life character or Adrien Brody‘s Thin Red Line character (‘Fife’) when the mood strikes, and then he picks some strands of pollen fibre out of the air and weaves them through the lettuce leaves and throws it all together into some kind of swoony patchwork ball of yarn or free-association mescaline trip — an impressionist fever dream by a guy who’s looking to rewrite the manual.
“Which is very brave and exciting on his part, and at the same time bothersome, depending on my mood when I’m watching one of his more recent films. I basically feel/believe that the Malick of the ’70s was a much more interesting and transporting director than the one who re-emerged with The Thin Red Line — that’s all. I’m not dismissing him out of hand or saying that he rubs me the wrong way…although he actually kind of does at times. But he also amazes and delights me from time to time.”