Badlands (1973)

And in another of life’s little ironies, after watching the Marker film in which he visits the philosopher Regis Debray in a Bolivian prison, I sit down with Terrence Malick’s Badlands and discover Malick actually got sent to Bolivia to cover the trial for a magazine. That discovery was far more amusing than any other aspect of my acquaintance with Malick, all of whose four features I’ve seen (except Tree of Life, for the obvious reason that I don’t do the Cannes Film Festival) but only one of which I’ve actually sat through until the end (The New World, which I thought was insufferable; I only sat through it cos I think it’s bad form to walk out of free media previews of films I might be reviewing for the radio show). My second go at Badlands was more successful insofar as I managed to sit through it all this time (maybe there’s hope for me finishing the other two yet?), but otherwise I still thought it was a yawner. The Senses of Cinema essay on him reckons the film is really about Kit & Holly’s experience of their own alienation from the world, and that’s fair enough. There’s no denying that neither character is fully in touch with reality somehow, though I got the impression she was actually perhaps slightly more mentally subnormal than him; at least he does something and has some sort of self-image (however unrealistic), she just kind of watches. But is there really a lack of interest in their psychology, as the essay says, or is it that they have no psychology to be interested in? I was disappointed, to be honest, cos I kind of hoped I might have some sort of new insight into Malick after all these years (I have no idea when I first saw this, though I reckon it must’ve been around the mid to late 90s) in the way I’ve come to a later appreciation of other filmmakers I once dismissed. And no, I was still bored to death by it after all.

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