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Ebook Information

Terrence Malick

A critical analysis of an exceptional American director

For a director who has made only four feature films over three decades, Terrence Malick has sustained an extraordinary critical reputation as one of America’s most original and independent filmmakers. In this book, Lloyd Michaels analyzes each of Malick’s four features in depth, emphasizing both repetitive formal techniques such as voiceover and long lens cinematography as well as recurrent themes drawn from the director’s academic training in modern philosophy. Like Heidegger, Malick seems to regard the human experience of nature as a mystery revealed primarily through moods rather than cognition; like Wittgenstein, he is less concerned with apprehending the world than with simply acknowledging its beingness. Michaels also analyzes the significant correspondences between Malick’s screenplays and the classic texts of American authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Stephen Crane.

Throughout this book, Michaels employs a critical approach that explores Malick’s synthesis of the romance of mythic American experience and the aesthetics of European art film. He performs close cinematic analysis of paradigmatic moments in Malick’s films: the billboard sequence in Badlands, the opening credits in Days of Heaven, the philosophical colloquies between Witt and Welsh in The Thin Red Line, and the epilogue in The New World. With regard to Malick’s interrupted career, Michaels sheds light on the two dark decades separating Days of Heaven in 1978 from The Thin Red Line in 1998, most of them spent as an expatriate in Paris. This richly detailed study also includes the only two published interviews with Malick, both in 1975 following the release of his first feature film, Badlands.


"[An] excellent introduction to Malick."--JASAT

“Lloyd Michaels provides a comprehensive introduction to this iconoclastic filmmaker’s work. Rich in insights, this book is a pleasure to read.”--Arthur Nolletti Jr., author of The Cinema of Gosho Heinosuke: Laughter through Tears


Lloyd Michaels is a professor of English at Allegheny College. Since 1977, he has edited the journal Film Criticism, and he is the author of The Phantom of the Cinema: Character in Modern Film.

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