Over the past few months I’ve occasionally made oblique references to a book I’m working on. That book is tentatively titled Unanswered Questions: The Art of Terrence Malick. It will be an exploration of the whole arc of Malick’s career as a filmmaker, though its structure will not be linear. A linear structure, working chronologically through all the movies, would not be a very Malickian way of doing business, would it? That said, the book will begin with a moment from Malick’s first movie, Badlands (1973) — this moment: 

Badlands this very moment

But it will quickly move on from there to later films, then back to earlier ones … you’ll see when the time comes what my initial perception is, and how it will shape everything that comes later. (One hint: it involves Ralph Waldo Emerson.) 

I won’t be writing about the project here, because that would reduce the likelihood of my eventually placing it with a publisher — and this is a book that I’m genuinely unsure I will be able to place. Books about movies are less common than they used to be, for reasons not totally clear, though some people think that real movie fans are more likely to invest their money in social Blu-Ray editions of their favorites, complete with commentaries and other special features, than in books. And this one will not have a conventional structure, so … well, we’ll see, in time. And this will take time: I won’t be able to finish it until Malick’s next film appears, and I don’t know when that will be. In the meantime, I want to write as much as I can, while remaining aware of the possibility that this great-work-to-come will change my mind about many things.  

In the meantime I will be posting here about movies in general. Watching and thinking about other movies has helped me better to understand Malick, who makes movies unlike anyone else’s — he has his own distinctive cinematic grammar and syntax and vocabulary, and I find that by having a clearer sense of the movie languages he is departing from, I am better able to describe what he’s up to. (I once saw an interview with Christopher Nolan in which he commented that on the basis of a 30-second clip you can with absolute confidence identify a movie as Malick’s — though he went on to say that if you ask him to explain how he recognizes it as Malick he can’t do it. I’m hoping to achieve more explanatory power.)  

Anyway, check out the “movies” tag for more. But probably not much more about Malick.  

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