Subterfuge, Dots, Connections

Why is it that no one except myself has even mentioned what would seem to any observant person like a somewhat plausible (if not entirely plausible) reason for the vague, sketchy, mostly dialogue-free nature of Terrence Malick‘s To The Wonder? The reason I’m suggesting (apart from the fact that Malick’s natural inclinations are to jettison characters and dialogue) is that he’s a very private fellow, notoriously so, and yet, paradoxically, he very clearly based the narrative bones of To The Wonder on his own personal history, as I pointed out on 8.19.12.

Variety‘s Steven Gaydos commented as follows: “I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone connected the dots between an artist’s obsessive desire for secrecy and privacy in life and their obsessive desire for full-frontal exposure of everything personal and painful and private in their art.”

It just seems queer that not one reviewer has brought this up. Not even as a talking point, not even as gossip…nothing.

From the article: “I’ve heard or read bits and pieces over the years, but a 5.21.11 ‘The Search’ document by Brett McCracken called ‘39 Facts About Terrence Malick‘ reports that in the early 80s, Malick, raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, fell for Michele Morette, ‘a Parisienne who lived in his building in Paris and who had a daughter, Alex. After a few years the three of them moved to Austin, Texas. Malick married Michele in 1985, but they divorced in 1998.’ That same year, McCracken writes, “Malick married Alexandra ‘Ecky’ Wallace, an alleged high school sweetheart from his days at St. Stephen’s school in Austin, Texas. They are still married and currently reside in Austin, Texas. Ecky Wallace is the mother of actor Will Wallace, who appears in The Thin Red Line, The New World and The Tree of Life.”

Are you going to stand there and tell me that Neil (Ben Affleck) isn’t Malick, Marina (Olga Kurylenko) isn’t Michele and Jane (Rachel McAdams) isn’t Ecky?

  • Bob Dylan toured for months with Merle Haggard and according to Mr. Haggard they basically never spoke. About anything. Ever. Maybe not even hello. So a couple of years later a new Dylan album comes out and there’s a song called WORKING MAN BLUES #2. Guess who wrote WORKING MAN BLUES #1? Merle. So there’s the way artists talk to each other and the rest of the world. With art. Except me. I say hello to everyone.

    • Raising_Kaned

      And then you steal all their weed.

      • Why does that make me laugh so much? You must hang out with musicians!

  • Raising_Kaned

    Can’t wait for Terrence to take on the ambitious Mallistick: Ecky vs. Sever project.

  • Correcting Jeff

    Maybe no one else says it because you’re wrong?

    Or maybe you’re right, but acknowledging it would be enough to justify, in your own mind, your pathological years-long hatred of Malick, and by extension his work, for not being accessible to journalists like yourself.

    So look on the bright side: the reason no other critic agrees with you is because they’re worried about the further damage you would do to your delicate psyche with that knowledge. They care, Jeff, they really do!

    • You’re a prissy little dick. I’m imagining nothing. The research is easy enough to find. You’re just whizzing on the snow.

      • Correcting Jeff

        I am a prissy little dick? YOU are the one who constantly, and I meant CONSTANTLY, resorts to the childish and vulgar name-calling of everyone who disagrees with you.

        Why are you so insecure, Wells? You live a great life, you get paid for what you love, you have loyal readers… what the hell is YOUR fucking problem?

        • Raising_Kaned

          Well, look on the bright side — it could be worse.

          He could still be putting all those alcoholic toxins into his system…amirite??

  • Bobby Cooper

    Whether he’s drawing heavily from his life or not is something to be curious about, but something tells me as stoic, worldly, and inscrutable as Malick may have been in his grand and mystical past love affairs, he probably did more than wear an anguished yet tough expression the whole way through it ala his avatar Ben Affleck. Now if that’s due to an ever more elliptical, b-roll editing scheme, so be it, but it makes the relationship dynamic lopsided and counterfeit.

  • I’m pretty sure that Roger Ebert used the word “autobiographical” in his review of the film. Pretty sure.

  • Gabe Toro

    If you’re spending the film’s runtime thinking about Terrence Malick’s personal life, you’re not really watching the movie.

  • louise p.

    Do you know that Michele Morette died in 2008? because I suppose it has something to do with the reason why he made that film maybe…

  • louise p.


  • louise p.

    I read two french reviews which said more about the film being autobiographical:

    One said it was an ode to his late ex-wife Michele Morette (partly because the film starts and ends with Mont Saint Michel) the article is here:

    And another review in SoFilm magazine (it’s a french magazine) saying that maybe this film was a way to thank Michele because she deserved it and he never did it in his previous films. (the article uses quotes from Paul Maher’s book ONE BIG SOUL).

    • Bobby Cooper

      This is all great stuff. Problem is the movie doesn’t show the protagonist really coming back to life because of this free spirit gracing his presence. He sort of trudges along, makes tender love out of a Cialis commercial, then glowers some more.

  • roland1824

    The reason no one’s mentioning this is that most people and critics treat movies like a contained text and evaluate just the movie. You’re always bringing in extraneous real world and personal baggage and letting it influence (and prejudice) your readings of a film. Things like the fact that World War Z had problems should not enter into a first reading of the movie. (You can always do this stuff later, like in a long Vanity Fair historical piece.) Real world baggage kills objectivity right out of the gate. If a movie stinks, it stinks.