Will Oldham on Terrence Malick’s Badlands
It would just be dumb not to include this. I have been once accused of being irreverent above all, and I am in danger of proving that here when I say that I find most Malick 2.0 movies to be ridiculous. I do like To the Wonder because it’s pulpy. When I heard that Malick was making The Thin Red Line, I checked James Jones’s book out of the library and sat in my attic sublet poring over it in anticipation of what was to come, and when it came . . . gee whiz but what an overblown lint ball of homoerotic bluster and worthlessness. And: there’s nothing wrong with Badlands. Beautiful, great music, magical pace, great, great acting. An ultimate movie, so good that it’s understandable how the momentum from Badlands alone can propel boatloads of people to believe that The New World has content. Springsteen appropriated Badlands, using its power to artificially light his Nebraska. Tarantino and Tony Scott used it to make the best screwball romantic comedy of modern times, True Romance. Badlands is as close to a perfect movie as I can think of (though I don’t hold perfection as the most desirable of qualities in anything), one that holds something to draw in almost any audience. Even the brutality that might otherwise repel is balanced enough with gentleness and charisma that I wouldn’t squirm watching the movie with a grandparent. Well: children probably shouldn’t see it. Maybe probably.
- Will Oldham put Terrence Malick’s film Badlands at number #3 on his Criterion Collection Top Fifteen list.