Knight of Cups (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 23-Mar-2016

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 117:52
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Terrence Malick

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Christian Bale
Brian Dennehy
Cate Blanchett
Frieda Pinto
Isabel Lucas
Natalie Portman
Imogen Poots
Teresa Palmer

Case ?
RPI ? Music Hanan Townshend

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† Many years ago a gentleman's outfitter of some distinction took to advertising their latest clothing range in lovingly produced brochures featuring glum looking men wearing their clothes. Beneath the photographs was a warning of sorts that the photographs did not show how the clothes should actually be worn - they were merely a "mood statement". The same warning could probably be placed on the recent series of Terrence Malick films. Whilst the director has never been one for straightforward narratives it seems that with each new film he departs even further from traditional forms. His latest film to be released on home video, Knight of Cups, is a mood statement if ever there was one. It has strayed very far from the path of standard cinema forms dispensing entirely with any concept of plot.

†††† The film falls into the recent category of movies from the master director which look at a singular idea in a most impressionistic way possible. Whilst his film of the 90s The Thin Red Line and the 2000s The New World were certainly filled with passages of swaying grass and languorous tracking shots they were both plotted to some extent. With The Tree of Life Malick stepped very far away from the traditional narrative. That film was an amazing journey through a fractured family relationship as the characters each tried to deal with the death of a family member. The splintered freewheeling tale and monologues made sense out of the story. His next film explored love in the same way albeit apparently less successfully. Quick question - am I the only person who is yet to take To The Wonder out of its packaging?

†††† Knight of Cups falls vaguely into a series of films that take an experimental look at the idea of love and loss. In the film Christian Bale plays Rick, a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has all the trappings of success and yet his life is empty and meaningless. The film shows various meetings between Rick and other people as he tries to understand what is wrong at the core of his being. It may be that the death of his brother has brought him adrift. There is a voice-over which includes readings from <>John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress as well as an ancient story The Hymn of the Pearl.

†††† The Knight of Cups of the title is a tarot card and the film is divided into various chapters according to different cards. Each of the chapters is inhabited by a different character and various actors have chimed in to play their parts. Malick has never had any difficulty getting willing participants although his directorial style has challenged some. Sean Penn spoke openly of being frustrated at Malickís loose style complaining of the difficulties of finding his character. Bale could properly say the same as apparently Malick wrote a script and then simply took away all the lines for his character... As a result Bale walks through the entire film almost silently and much of the dialogue of the other actors is in voice-over. Cate Blanchett, Frieda Pinto, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy and Wes Bentley all play their parts as aspects of Rick's life. Aussies Isabel Lucas and Teresa Palmer also get a look in. Apparently Malick used a process called "torpedoing" where he sent an actor into a scene to create magic. This makes for odd scenes where there is little forward momentum.

†††† The film divided critics more than his other movies. It's not hard to see why. Whilst The Tree of Life was similarly filled with strange interludes and long periods of reflection it at least had a progression which could be followed. Rick's journey is far from any reality. He is in a waking sleep for the whole film. Those who have responded positively to the movie see it as a tone poem which captures the very essence of filmmaking and life. For my part Malick has stripped the narrative back one dial too far and the improvised scenes meander as much as they gain insight. Still it's a remarkable looking and presented film that will be of interest to those who are bored with Hollywood formula.

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Transfer Quality


†††† Knight of Cups was shot on a variety of sources and presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio of the original release.

††††Some parts were shot on various media. Part was on 65 mm film, other scenes were shot using the Red Epic high-definition digital camera and yet others with a Go-Pro in high-definition. The result is a melange of looks. As with Malickís other films the defining quality is one of beauty. There are long and languorous shots of desert landscapes and characters walking along beaches. The camera is always moving, encircling and intruding.

†††† The image quality of the Blu-ray is superb with colours are looking amazing. The flesh tones are accurate. There is a crispness to the image throughout.

††††There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† The film begins with the most curious directive: "For optimal sound reproduction, the producers of this film recommend that you play it loud.". What might seem like a pretentious request is probably something altogether more practical. So much of the film consists of interior monologue voice-overs and whispers that having the sound at a normal level might mean that the dialogue is missed.

†††† There is certainly a problem from time to time picking up the voice-overs however I have strong doubts as to whether any of that really affects the presentation of the film. Apart from those scenes the dialogue can be heard fairly clearly. Malick will often start a scene with the dialogue being heard in the background and then dials it down so that it can no longer be heard at all.

†††† Malick uses a classical music for his films as well as a treasure trove of obscure pieces combined with other music only half heard in the background. There is Beethoven, Chopin and Greig as the mainstream music sources. Much of the music comes from regular collaborator Hanan Townshend. As usual with Malick the music is a strong accompaniment to the film and sometimes the leading dramatic idea.

†††† The main track is a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack which perfectly conveys this aural experience. Whilst surround sound is useful to give depth and the sub-woofer provides the bass it is never obtrusive. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 224 Kb descriptive audio track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


†††† The extras are not really extras.

Making of Featurette (3.29)

†††† This is the briefest of featurettes giving a few of the actors the opportunity to talk about the story and the opportunity to work with Malick. Sightings of Malick are as rare as Bigfoot so naturally he isn't anywhere to be seen. What wouldn't any Malick fan give for an audio commentary track?

Deleted Scenes (1.46)

†††† In a film like this it is hard to see where the deleted scenes have been deleted. They look like actual scenes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††††This film has not yet been released in the Region A. Buy ours.


†††† Though Knight of Cups will test the patience of many, and last two minutes in the Blu-ray player of others, it is a film that should be seen by anyone with an interest in Malick or modern cinema. The images are arresting and the aural accompaniment enveloping even if the threads of meaning are indecipherable.

††††An excellent Blu-ray with the usual paucity of extras for Malick films.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge Audio 752BD All Region Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplayJVC DLX 700 with 4K e-shift on 140" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC -LX 78K 9.2 Channel
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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