With the arrival of cold weather, ’tis once again the season for New Yorkers to take shelter inside our apartments and catch up on those long movies we’ve been too busy for during warmer months. Terrence Malick’s The New World may be the season’s most anticipated new release, making this a good time to revisit the director’s three-hour World War II reverie The Thin Red Line. A radical rethinking of the war movie, The Thin Red Line steers away from the problematic excitement of combat in favor of a more contemplative tone—Malick may be the only director alive who would cut away from a battle scene for a shot of sunlight hitting a blade of grass.
The long form lends itself to certain genres—there aren’t a lot of slapstick comedies or slasher flicks clocking in at three hours plus. Representing the costume drama is Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, which chronicles the rise and fall of the titular nobleman (seldom a less appropriate label) back in the good old days when the pettiest of insults was reason enough for a duel to the death. The opulent sets and groundbreaking cinematography-by-candlelight provide all the standard period-movie pleasures, even as Kubrick’s camerawork doggedly keeps us at a distance.
Is it a stretch to think of Twin Peaks as one long movie? Maybe not, particularly as the spotty second season remains unreleased on disc (the first-season DVD comprises seven hour-long episodes, not including the two-hour pilot, available separately). David Lynch’s color palette and Angelo Badalamenti’s moody score give Twin Peaks a cinematic ambience, even as its soap opera structure guarantees the compulsive watchability of TV.
Finally, on the nonfiction front, a long winter’s day (or two) provides the ideal opportunity to watch Claude Lanzmann’s masterful 566-minute Holocaust documentary Shoah, essential as much for its formal intelligence as for the enormity of its subject. Lanzmann’s investigation of Nazi evil gains significantly in impact when viewed in one or two sittings, the compact time frame giving the purposeful repetition of key images a chance to sink in. LAND