Scen.: Terrence Malick. F.: Tak Fujimoto, Steven Larner, Brian Probyn. M.: Robert Estrin. Scgf.: Jack Fisk. Mus.: George Tipton. Su.: Doug Crichton, Maury Harris, Sam Shaw. Int.: Martin Sheen (Kit), Sissy Spacek (Holly), Warren Oates (il padre di Holly), Ramon Bieri (Cato), Alan Vint (il vice-sceriffo), Gary Littlejohn (lo sceriffo), John Carter (l’uomo ricco). Prod.: Terrence Malick per Pressman-Williams, Warner Bros, Jill Jakes Production, Badlands Company. Pri. pro.: 13 ottobre 1973. DCP. D.: 94′. Model Shop Col.
It would hardly be an exaggeration to call the first half of Badlands a revelation – one of the best literate examples of narrated American cinema since the early days of Welles and Polonsky. Compositions, actors, and lines interlock and click into place with irreducible economy and unerring precision, carrying us along before we have time to catch our breaths. It is probably not accidental than an early camera set-up of Kit on his garbage route recalls the framing of a neighborhood street that introduced us to the social world of Rebel Without a Cause: the doomed romanticism courted by Kit and dispassionately recounted by Holly immediately evokes the Fifties world of Nicholas Ray – and more particularly, certain Ray-influenced (and narrated) works of Godard, like Pierrot le fou and Bande à part. Terrence Malick’s eye, narrative sense, and handling of affectless violence are all recognizably Godardian, but they flourish in a context more easily identified with Ray. Unmistakably Malick’s own, however, is the narration and dialogue: like the movie’s violence, it remains laconic, idiomatic, detached, and chillingly real throughout. Less sustaining, alas, is the sense of discovery illuminating the film’s first part: the further that the couple proceed in their travels, the more familiar and twice-told their story seems to become, grasping after sociological observations that were interesting when they figured in Gun Crazy, Bonnie and Clyde, The Honeymoon Killers, Targets, et al., but are uncomfortably close to platitudes in 1974. The stylistic familiarities, on the other hand, appear too quickly and variously for them to fall into predictable patterns. Holly occupying a bed with an enormous dog; her disappointment with her first foray into sex, and Kit picking up a stone to commemorate the event (substituting a smaller one when he finds it too heavy); Kit reading “National Geographic” while Holly muses pantheistically on the soundtrack; sepia newsreel-like glimpses of police and frightened townsfolk: all these are too striking as images and as ideas, and too neatly abstracted out of their immediate contexts, to fit into traditional genre expectations.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Monthly Film Bulletin”, n. 491, novembre 1974