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500 Five-Star: Badlands (1973)

July 12, 2012

Bad blogger, Leanne.  Very bad blogger.

Yep, that’s me.  I can blame many things (most of which you can read about on my personal blog, Tiny Magpie), but really, I’m just a very bad blogger.  Almost four months without a post, and I really have no idea how it happened.  Still, I’m back, and I’m here to stay (no, really.  Honest.  Just ignore that post below from March where I say I’m back for good.  I was totally lying then), if for no other reason than I’m going to go absolutely mental if I don’t make it onto ‘C’ in the 500 Five-Star project soon.  ‘B’ can, quite honestly, jump off a bridge at this point (and I still have about twenty to go.  HOW?  I’ve been at it FOREVER!).  So, without further ado…

The real reason for my absence is that for the past few months, I’ve had very little energy for watching any film that wasn’t Avengers Assemble or Mamma Mia (alliterative films only, apparently).  My one year old daugher gave up her naps in the spring, and it’s taken quite a while to come to terms with this change in routine.  Quite simply, watching Russian silent movies and Art Garfunkel acting vehicles just didn’t fit in with a life that usually found me flopping out on the settee at 7pm with a whimper.  Finally though, and possibly only because I was still on a high from seeing Bruce Springsteen the week before, I agreed to give ‘Badlands’ a spin.  It was a great choice, as it turned out.  ‘Badlands’ is a bonafide classic, and as a result, just what I needed to revitalise my interest in this project, and for film watching in general.  It’s a shocking film too, of course, but again, that seemed to be just what I needed.  ‘Badlands’ reminded me that films can be challenging, beautiful, intriguing, and disturbing, and most importantly, inspiring: not only did it make me want to watch films, but it made me want to write about them.  It made me want to tell everyone how incredibly amazing Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek’s performances are.  How ‘Badlands’ is a film which is impossible to understand, but how this is what makes it so stunning.  How Kip and Holly are two of the most reprehensible, yet shockingly indifferent, characters in the history of cinema.  They are villains, in every sense of the word, but it doesn’t matter, either in their cinematic world, or this world.  They manage to be both glamorous and psychotic, as well as impossible to understand.  To some, this is understandly frustrating, given that no real attempt is made to understand their actions and motives in commiting a murderous rampage across a whole state.  However, murder simply isn’t always easily understood.  Some do it because they’re insane, some do it for fun, some do it because they’re bored.  Kip and Holly’s lives are lived in a wasteland, with little to inspire or drive them; what’s to stop them making things a little more interesting?  ‘Badlands’ is not always a realistic film (see Holly’s indifferent reactions to Kip’s shocking actions), but the otherworldliness is both entirely intended and entirely necessary for a film exploring such a marriage of horror and charisma.  ‘Badlands’ was, believe it or not, my first Terence Malick film, but it certainly won’t be the last.


Both beautiful and horrific, ‘Badlands’ is not easily forgotten, but nor should it be.  A stunning work of art, with the patented Martin Sheen jacket-putting-on to boot. 


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