There’s films you see every so often that halfway through you go “This could be the greatest film I’ve ever seen.” Knight of Cups had me at this moment about an hour in, as Christian Bale just stares at the ocean view with the people going by. So much of the film is defined by slow moving cameras that draw you into it’s atmosphere, as strange and hedonistic drama unfolds around it. Much like Malick’s The Tree Of Life, the camera follows people, events of nature and drops you in places you’d never thought it would go.
The plot draws heavily from old poetry and prose, quoting The Pilgrim’s Progress heavily at times through the fractured narrative, but the title is a reference to the tarot card ‘Knight of cups’. The premise of the film is Christian Bale, an unsatisfied and hedonistic screenwriter struggles with his fractured family, his crazy brother and can only find release in becoming absorbed into L.A hedonism, Bret Easton Ellis style. He explores relationships with six women, named for a tarot card each and tried to learn a little from each one that fractures and attempt to become something more. This is conveyed in a very experimental style, echoing his other work but also completely engrossing in it’s own way.
The dialogue is never really clear to any characters intentions, and monologues roll between flutters of images, while some jerks giggle in the background. Atmosphere is key here, you appreciate every shot, every location that is seen, but with the passage of time it becomes very emotional. It starts feel like super-emotional humans living in an amoral paradise. The sound design of the film is a stroke of genius, bringing intensity to every scene. It feels like every dream I’ve ever had where I’ve basked in fake sunlight and cooled off next to neon every night.
That is how the film felt to me. However it’s understandable that it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s one of the most innovative, amazing films I’ve seen in the past year, but it’s still an art-house film that doesn’t hold your hand at all. It’s experimental to the point of broken in terms of how Hollywood movies are made, but it also is one of the most perfect satires ever made about the film industry. Scenes fly by where Antonio Banderas walks you through a diamond encrusted party, like some sly dog through a Shakespearean whore house, for Cate Blanchett to turn up and slap you across the face for straying. All while Tom Lennon yaps on in the background.
Knight of Cups is certainly weird as hell, randomly dancing across space and time whenever it feels like it, but it’s also an emotionally rewarding experience that you should give a chance. It might not be the greatest film i’ve ever seen, but if it at least made me consider it, that makes it one of the greats.