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Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups is an astute observation, a reflection, and commentary that contemplates our contemporary urban islands. The film’s most consistent motif is inversion, a collapsing of the boundaries between the internal and the external, a conflation of self and society featuring a kinetic and nearly constant obsession with the surface vs. substance quandary that has confounded philosophers, artists, and poets for millennia. As I mused in the afterglow of the film, I found myself wondering why, in his recent transition away from the historical and towards the contemporary, Malick selected Los Angeles as his cosmopolis of choice. It took some thinking, but I realized that the last picture to capture L.A. and inscribe it this perfectly was released in 1969, and it wasn’t a film, it wasn’t a novel, it wasn’t an essay: it was an album, Joni Mitchell’s Clouds.

More… “Terrence and Joni Redeem L.A.”

Sean Hooks is originally from New Jersey and presently lives in Los Angeles. He teaches English and Writing at the University of California, Riverside and Fullerton College. Recent publications include Los Angeles Review of Books, Bright Lights Film Journal, Akashic Books, The Manhattanville Review, and Pif Magazine.
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An army of dark clouds slid over Brooklyn today. They came from the north, whence come the wicked. We don’t know who sent them, but we don’t have to. Dark forces are dark forces. It was a Romantic painting in Kings County, New York, something, maybe, by J.M.W. Turner.

Charles Baudelaire once said, “Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.” That’s a vague definition perfectly fitting to a vague subject matter. For all the use of words like “precisely” and “exact” it is neither. Romanticism, in short, barely exists. It is more of a mood than a movement. But what is a mood? It’s not a mental state exactly. Mood is more like the color of consciousness. But that merely adds vagary to vagary. Fact… More…