Perhaps the most striking thing about Malick's new feature The Thin Red Line is the fact that while its director has not made a film in 20 years, his artistic evolution has continued silently, underground, all that time. Each movie is a logical progression from what preceded it. What is clear and precise in Badlands is gauzy in Days of Heaven (1978) and murky in Line. While Spacek's voice-over narration in Badlands follows the action with parodic commentary, Linda Manz's narration in Heaven comes in at oblique angles to the story even as the many male voice-overs in Thin Red Line consistently bog down its action in hesitation, circling back to settled issues, subverting whatever forward thrust the kinetic velocity of Malick's images have accumulated. Many will still think Badlands Malick's best feature; while at times its ironies are too studied, its cleansing clarity is a delight to behold.
-- Gregg Rickman
Badlands screens Friday, Jan. 1, at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. (with Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets at 5:20 and 9:25 p.m.) at the UC Theater, 2036 University (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $6.50; call (510) 843-3456.