Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Am I the last person to see...

...Badlands? I just rented it the other night. Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line) wrote and directed it, and released it in 1973, shortly before pulling a Salinger-like disappearing act. He released Days of Heaven in 1978 and then fell off the map for 20 years.

Just like The Thin Red Line, Badlands depends heavily on a slowly gathered sense of dread and a liberal use of voice-over narration by one of its main characters. It's a much smaller, more modest story, though, and it's the better movie because of it. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek play Kit (25) and Holly (15), a pair of disaffected South Dakotan youths (is there any other kind?) in the late '50s. It's not giving anything away to reveal that someone gets killed and the pair hits the road to outrun the fuzz and then several other people get killed and no one gets any less disaffected. It's sort of what Natural Born Killers might have looked like if Raymond Carver had written it -- What We Talk About When We Talk About Going on a Killing Spree.

I can't recommend it highly enough. Sheen is extraordinary, and though I've never been a big fan of Spacek, she does a terrific job with the voice-overs, which are often spare but poetic:
He needed me now more than ever, but something had come between us. I'd stopped even paying attention to him. Instead, I sat in the car and read a map and spelled out entire sentences with my tongue on the roof of my mouth, where nobody could read them.
Despite its brilliance, the movie does have quite a silly tagline, according to imdb: "In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people."

This is nothing, though, compared to my favorite tagline of all-time, which is from The Lift, a Dutch horror movie about a demented elevator: "Take the stairs! Take the stairs! For God's sake, take the stairs!"



Blogger Dezmond said...

Springsteen's song "Nebraska" was based largely on this film.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Leonatus said...

In a world....where lots of people were killing time....Kit and Holly were killing something else....

3:20 PM  

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