August 17, 2020

"This trailer for Days of Heaven has a bit of her narration. At 1:09, there's a beautiful shot of Linda Manz."



The quote in the post title is from my son John (at Facebook). He links to "Linda Manz, Star of Days of Heaven and Out of the Blue, Dies at Age 58/Though her credits were few, she left an indelible mark on film culture" (Variety).
She went in for the Days of Heaven casting call and ended up with the plum role of Richard Gere’s kid sister in the gorgeously-lensed Texas panhandle period piece.... ... Malick struggled to find cohesiveness while editing, and struck upon the idea to have Manz record a freestyle narration. “No script, nothing,” Manz recalled to the Voice. “I just watched the movie and rambled on . . . I dunno, they took whatever dialogue they liked.” The humorous incongruity of a city kid offering commentary about Texas farmers in 1916 (and also weighing in on Bible tales and whatever else was buzzing in Manz’s mind) is the first and most hummable melody in this cinematic symphony.
Here's the opening sequence Variety is talking about:

45 comments:

Iman said...

My wife and I watched Days of Heaven a month or so ago... good movie... outstanding cinematography. I noted at the time that the movie appeared to be Manz’s only film credit, which was weird, I thought, given her performance.

Joe Smith said...

That woman had an incredibly annoying voice. Once I saw some stills I remember her from 'The Wanderers.'

She was cute in a waifish kind of way. Bear in mind she was only 15 at the time...prime Epstein years...

Temujin said...

You know, I remember (and correct me if I'm wrong Althousians) that "Days of Heaven" was a total loss at the box office and was panned and joked about early on. Then later became a 'classic' when people actually watched and pondered it. I've seen a few of Malick's movies and each one was "gorgeously lensed" but "struggled to find cohesiveness". I have found Malick to be a highly praised director who makes movies that do not move me, or stay with me in any way. Generally I've found them to be full of themselves while not saying much. That said- I never did see Days of Heaven, but in these Days of Wuhan I find that I have more time now to go back and take on some of those things I've meant to do. Like read "Ulysses"- this time as a 66 year old instead of as a 18 year old college kid. Or watch "Days of Heaven". I think I'll do that soon.

MayBee said...

Visually beautiful. I really don't get the New York accent with what we're seeing, though. Whatever kind of rube that makes me.

Fernandinande said...

The humorous incongruity of a city kid offering commentary about Texas farmers

'Specially since it was filmed in Canada, which I get mixed up with Quebec, and that's not as bad a thinking it's Texas.

Joe Smith said...

@Temujin

I think you're thinking of 'Heaven's Gate.'

Per Wikipedia:

"It is notable for being one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, losing the studio an estimated $37 million ($144 million in 2019 dollars) at the time of its release and for having its original cut condemned as one of the worst films ever made."

It was said at the time that HG director Cimino single-handedly killed the Western.

Jupiter said...

A little of that goes a good, long ways.

mandrewa said...

I loved that movie. I saw when it first came out in the theatre. It stuck in my mind for a long time.

Part of it, a large part of it, was the music. Somehow the music stayed within me. Later I bought the soundtrack and listened to it over and over again.

Temujin said...

Joe Smith...as Ed McMahon would say, "You are correct, sir!"

Heaven's Gate was the flop.

I need to watch "Days of Heaven".

Jack Klompus said...

Badlands will always be Malick's best film.

Jack Klompus said...

"Part of it, a large part of it, was the music. Somehow the music stayed within me. Later I bought the soundtrack and listened to it over and over again."

I felt the same way about the Ry Cooder soundtrack to Paris, Texas.

Ann Althouse said...

I've never seen it!

Ann Althouse said...

I've never seen a lot of Terrence Malick movies.

I've only seen "Badlands" and "The Thin Red Line."

mandrewa said...

Visually beautiful. I really don't get the New York accent with what we're seeing, though.

Orphans. I don't remember the plot in all of its details, but for instance my grandmother's mother died when she was born and her father when she was four. How does society deal with people like that? It used to be more common. There were no government agencies dedicated to managing people like this back then. In nineteenth century America, children in such a situation might be given employment.

They were nineteenth century migrant workers, some of whom were recent immigrants and some of whom were native, and thus the accent.

Jack Klompus said...

I thought Tree of Life was beautiful aside from a hokey CGI sequence involving dinosaurs. Several of my friends formed a virtual lynch mob against me for recommending it saying it was the most tedious and pretentious thing they'd ever suffered through.

Jack Klompus said...

Malick really divides opinions. I like his films although I haven't seen any he's done after Tree of Life. Yes, they're slow, but visually they're beautiful and he addresses "deep" themes without being preachy. Malick was also a Rhodes scholar who taught philosophy at MIT, so he's no dummy!I invite anyone who thinks Malick is TOO slow to try to stay awake through any of the pretentious dreck made by Antonioni.
Early John Sayles films are the same in how they address interesting issues of class, race, etc without the nauseating, in your face, cheap political correctness. I love Matewan, Lianna, Eight Men Out, City of Hope, and Lone Star.

Rob said...

One of the most beautiful movies ever made, Ann. (Not one of the greatest, mind you, though it is more than fine.) You should definitely see it.

TheGiantPeach said...

A lot of the greatness of "Days of Heaven" lies in its visual richness. The cinematographer was Nestor Almendros, a true master of his art.

Roughcoat said...

A truly great movie. Profound, tragic, touching, haunting. Gets better with each viewing.

Manz's performance -- both on screen, and her narration -- is incredible ... incredibly moving.

The three main characters are from Chicago.

Malick ponders the Mystery in his films. The depth of things. He doesn't always succeed, but I appreciate his efforts. And sometimes he does succeed, spectacularly so, as in "Days of Heaven."

"This girl, she didn’t know where she was gonna go or what she was gonna do. Maybe she’d meet up with a character. I was really hopin’ things would work out for her."

RIP, Linda. Hoping that, now, you'll meet up with a character.

john said...

I'm on a slow motion mission to watch all the films scored by Ennio Morricone. The last one was "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" (cute, but totally bizarre). Days of Heaven is next!

Yancey Ward said...

Days of Heaven, unfortunately, often gets confused with Heaven's Gate- see a comment above. Both movies have "heaven" in the title, and were made around the same time in 1978. Indeed, every time I see a reference to the movies, I have to remind myself which is being discussed (it helped here by mentiong Malick in trailer title).

It isn't my favorite Malick movie- I have only watched it one time. However, it is a good movie if you haven't seen it before- well worth the time.

Darkisland said...

I liked the trailer. I'll put Days of Heaven on my list.

I've been hearing about Heaven's Gate for decades and even saw a documentary about how it came to be so terrible.

I noticed the other day it is now on Amazon Prime. I put it on my watch list to see if it can possibly be as bad as it is supposed to be.

The train scene, with all the people riding on top of freight cars looked more like india than the US. I don't think I've ever seen a group of people like that riding on top of a train.

Lots of ways to ride a freight train but I've never heard of that as one. The railroads have always had "Bulls" (conductors) whose main job was to throw freeriders off the train. Literally. While it was moving.

Riding on top would seem to make one too visible.

John Henry

Andrew said...

I say "Days of Heaven" at he theater when it came out. It's in my "suck movie, but beautiful visually" movie category. Watched it recently on cable still sucks. Similar movies like "Heavens Gate" and "Out of Africa". You can see the same thing on the Smithsonian or History Channels, you know Aerial this or that country or state and you won't have to put up with suck dialogue and bad acting.

Michael said...

As with The Thin Red Line, the cinematography in Days Of Heaven is best appreciated on the big screen in a theater. Even a 60" HDTV at home doesn't do these films justice.

Joe Smith said...

"They were nineteenth century migrant workers..."

Technically early 20th century...and overwhelmingly white! Doing the jobs that Americans would do (then, at least).

SconnieFella said...

Days of Heaven is one of my favorite movies (now free on Showtime). It and Badlands are great, but Malick has never gotten close to those two since, and I find the decade of his work beyond tedious.

Robert Cook said...

A great movie! I saw it twice at the movie theater during its original theatrical run. Manz's narration somewhat echoed Sissy Spacek's narration of Malick's superlative (and first!) film BADLANDS.

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

It’s the story of Abraham and Sarah, it seems, or at least part of their story. I never saw the movie, but I always thought that plot would be perfect for a Western, a proper 19th century, frontier Western, but we’ll probably never find out, because movies are dead.

Roughcoat said...

Days of Heaven takes place c. 1920. This is indicated by several visual clues in the movie, notably but not exclusively by the aircraft type in the "flying circus" scene. The post World War I recession was then in full swing. The rural economy was particularly hard hit -- wheat prices were seriously depressed, resulting in much hardship for the great wheat producing landowners such as the farmer portrayed by Sam Shepherd. The "brotherhood of the rails" population had burgeoned accordingly, with migrant farm workers joined by out-of-work urban/industrial workers (similarly hard-hit by the sudden drastic postwar decline in manufacturing) in roaming the country in search of employment. In the hinterland especially, the railroads tolerated large numbers of people hitching rides on the tops of train cars -- this scene in Days of Heaven is factually correct. The toleration of the railroads in this regard was compelled by the great landowners, who needed labor to be mobile (and inexpensive) in this period.

Roughcoat said...

Malick's movies, when he's at the top of his form, are breathtakingly profound and transcendent. Days of Heaven is Malick at the top of his form. A "small story" with unfathomable depth. If you're receptive to what Malick is trying for, it really makes you think. More than any other movie in my experience, it made me think about what happens AFTER the story on the screen ends. What happens to little Linda? What happens to Abby? What happens to all of us? Where do we go? What did it all mean?

Caroline said...

Days of heaven is what made me apply to NYU film school.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

That tressle, built in 1909, is still in use:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NexL3uRFCHM

Roughcoat said...


Opening train scene, to the musical accompaniment of “Train and Gate” by Leo Kottke. As the train crosses the tressle, Linda talking:

“Me and my brother. It just used to be me and my brother. We used to do things together. We used to have fun. We used to go in the streets. There was people suffering of pain and hunger. Some people with tongues hanging out of their mouth. All three of us been goin’ places. Lookin’ for tings, searchin’ for tings. Goin’ on adventures. They told everyone they was brother and sister. You know how people are. You tell them something, they start talking. I met this guy named Ding Dong. He told me the whole world was goin’ up in flames: flames will come out of here and there -- it’ll just rise up, the mountains is gonna go up in big flames, the water is gonna rise in flames, there’s gonna be creatures runnin’ every whichway, some of them burnt, half their wings burning, people are gonna be screamin’ and hollerin’ for help . . . but the people that have been good, they gonna go to heaven and escape all that fire. But if you’ve been bad, God don’t hear you, He don’t even hear you talkin’. “

“Me and my brother. It just used to be me and my brother. We used to do things together. We used to have fun. We used to go in the streets. There was people suffering of pain and hunger. Some people with tongues hanging out of their mouth.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBgwuM11q0o

Roughcoat said...

The tap dancing scene: 40 seconds of cinematic brilliance. Utterly charming in microcosm; but, in the broader context, so very poignant, and sorrowful: hard pressed-upon people, trying their best to make enjoyment in their lives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cMQBeUu-nc

Bill Peschel said...

I've understood in the last few years that we have a sensitivity to art that's akin to our tastebuds. A song like "Mr. Blue Sky" affects me in a manner that is diametrically opposed to the way my wife experiences it. Same song; different effect.

I can understand that now watching the opening sequence. If there's nothing happening in your head, it can be interminable to watch. I dig that. It's not criticism of your judgment.

I watched it and admired Kottke's signature sound, the beauty of the images, the beauty of a young Gere, the narration. I don't know if I could take a whole movie of it, but it reminds me of the Fassbender films of the '80s in the Durham art house theater. Sitting in the dark, absorbing the movements, the colors, the images, and trying to make sense of it.

It's the movie going on in your head that's the real movie.

stevew said...

I have got to see this. Gorgeously lensed movies are very appealing. A good story helps. Out of Africa, A River Runs Through It, Lawrence of Arabia. Blade Runner? Love the visuals in that one too. And, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

JMW Turner said...

Probably everything has been said about this subject, however, *My Two Cents*; Terrance Malick was working on a masters in philosophy at Magdalen College in Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship before dropping out, eventually earning a MFA at AFI Conservatory in the late sixties, establishing contact with the New Hollywood rising stars. His idiosyncratic
filmmaking style often led to members of his crew quitting his early efforts, including the enigmatic Days of Heaven. When it became apparent that the film wasn't coming together, he made the addition of a voice over presented by a young Linda Manz, a technique employed in other films such as his debut Badlands, The Thin Red Line, and The New World. Belying his philosophical training, his voice overs not only comment on the narrative, but the commentators opinions and judgments on events and characters. The voice overs not only explain events and personalities, but extend depth of understanding of what the filmmaker intended the film to demonstrate. Basically I believe that Malick's work is contemplative, taking it's leisurely time for the audience's full immersion in the world Malick has created. Linda Manz became his working class, New York accented Beatrice, cementing her character's place in film history.

rcocean said...

Beautiful photography, but dull. 90 minutes of wheat.

rcocean said...

Pseduo-snobs seem to love his films. Or at least the more obscure, slower ones. I also objected to the sadness of the story. If you have all this beautiful photography with very little plot or story, give us something upbeat and happy. but then that wouldn't impress the film snobs.


rcocean said...

The fllm snobs love 2001 for same reason. All those shots of space with classical music. It bored the hell out of me, but the movie buffs loved it. "hal the computer" was the most interesting thing in the movie.

Sydney said...

I haven’t seen it, but now I want to. I love To the Wonder and Tree of Life. They seem like contemplative prayers to me.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

rcocean:

You, of course, are not a film snob. Or any other kind of snob, I'm guessing.

JMW Turner said...

P.S....don't know why people are so single minded about what they consider watchable, I've got Bogie's The Big Sleep in the machine, but I'm just as likely to have Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla or any number of London Gangster films: quick, subdued violence and witty dialogue, like Howard Hawk's 1946 The Big Sleep, or, perhaps, any of the three modern versions of Hamlet, or the Tom Stoppard Hamlet spinoff
comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, it's all rock n roll to me! Speaking of heresy, several years back, I had the pleasure to see a final cut (perhaps) of Michael Cimino's Heaven Gate. Much like Malick's contemplative, drawn-out style, I found it a better film than the wags were claiming, although a curious leftist rendition of an nineteenth century range war between the proletariat and the hired thugs of the association of cattle barons. Starred soft lefty Kris Kristofferson, movie flavor of the seventies.

Roughcoat said...

Minor correction: actually, the opening sequence i linked to ... there are scenes preceding it that sets up the sequence. Glimpses of the lives of hopeless poverty the main characters are living in the wretched squalor of down-and-out Chicago; Bill slaving his life away in a steel mill and the desperate act of violence he commits that forces them to flee the city; and Linda's wise-beyond-her-years and curiously romantic (optimistic?) take on their dead-end existence.