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Podcast: The Playlist Talks Terrence Malick’s ‘To The Wonder’ & The Potential Dangers Of Auteur Worship

Podcast: The Playlist Talks Terrence Malick's 'To The Wonder' & The Potential Dangers Of Auteur Worship

…and the podcast is back. On this latest episode, host (yours truly) and contributor Erik McClanahan is joined by editor-in-chief Rodrigo Perez, managing editor Kevin Jagernauth and contributor Cory Everett for an in depth conversation about Terrence Malick and his latest film”To the Wonder,” and the idea of auteur worship in cinephile/critical circles..

Though we chatted for more than an hour about this idea and other directors who may or may not have become a parody of themselves (see our Malick feature for more on that), this topic is grand, complex, ever-evolving and expanding with near endless layers and varied sub-topics to broach. It’s an ongoing discussion, so after you give it a listen, don’t forget to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section. 

Lastly, a little house cleaning: of course you can stream the podcast below, but you can also download as well via SoundCloud for use on mobile devices. Also, we were forced to alter the cut of this podcast slightly because of copyright issues with certain music titles. While I’m happy with the version below, it’s not my original vision, and thus if you’d like to hear the “Editor’s Cut,” which I prefer, please email me at and I will send you an mp3 of that edit. Thanks for listening! 

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You guys should never talk about movies. Jesus.


I think auteur theory is so interesting not because it idealizes filmmakers but because it provides a different lens with which to view film and sparks so much conversation (as demonstrated by the podcast). I see the idealization, the subsequent expectations and the let downs as inevitable but misguided, as I think true auteur theory actually humanizes the mysterious art of directing and the people who do it.

Erik McClanahan

To all who've emailed me so far re: Editor's Cut. Thanks, I got your messages. I will send the mp3 today asap.

Tyler Mason

I think auteurs don't necessarily get a pass, but I'm willing to say that I will be willing to give a film from a great director a much deeper look because I've seen their prior art and have to assume they wouldn't make some empty film, considering that I know the director tends to have so much deep commentary. Perfect case in point: EYES WIDE SHUT.

I learned to love that film, after multiple viewings. I knew it was Kubrick and he made carefully designed artistic commentaries on war, technology, politics, and human relationships. Eyes Wide Shut was his commentary on marriage and sex. It is very oblique, but I think with patience and attention from the viewer, it's becomes a masterpiece If that had been some no-name filmmaker, who spent that much money, time, and star power for that movie, it would be one of the most famous box-office bombs of all time. Critics would call it a faux arthouse, unintentional comedy. That last line from Nicole Kidman would go down in history with Jennifer Lopez saying, "It's turkey time."

But isn't that just the nature of artistic credibility? When I go in to a Scorcese movie, I'm just waiting for him to woo me and I'm looking to see what amazing things he's going to show me. The idea it could just suck never crosses my mind. On the other hand, when I go to see a first time director, the burden is on them to show me something special. After all, there are lots of movies and a good percentage suck.

With great directors, if I don't like it, my first instinct is to assume there's something wrong with me. Maybe it's just over my head. After all, this guy is the genius. The same applied to me with THE MASTER. It was gorgeous, but I felt like in went nowhere in the last act and just stopped. As soon as it was over, I thought I needed to see it again. I must have have just not gotten it.

TO THE WONDER didn't fool me though. I loved TREE OF LIFE (and everything else Malick has done) and I wanted to love this movie after I got all sentimental with Ebert's last review. It tried to have all of these realistic pantomime emotions that worked with Affleck's rage when he punched the car mirror and Barden's genuine expression of isolation and longing, as he wondered the ghetto streets. But the women in the film just fluttered around like that empty bag in AMERICAN BEAUTY crossed movies and infatuated someone else. They awkwardly dryhump/stroke/hug/danced with Affleck and made empty comments about… love… discontent… dreams… conflict… nothing?


I wish you guys would do one of these podcasts weekly. Always look forward to listening to them.


I understand your point, Alex, but Marina says specifically that she knows it may not be forever with Neil before he takes her to America. Malick is rarely specific in his intentions, so when he is I take note. I would say that's an "objective method of formulating the filmmaker's intentions."

Anyway, my point is that Corey said the theme was love. I experienced a film about the decline of a society because it doesn't embrace love at all. There are those willing to give love (The Priest and Marina), but there has to be someone to embrace it or it's lost.

The greatest thing about Malick's films (besides his unique anthropological and philosophical takes on the societies he explores) is his gift of a subjective experience. Just like life, his films allow you your own unique perspective.

P.S. There's no need to be angry…


Corey missed To The Wonder completely. He over simplifies it by saying it was about love. Marina says right at the beginning that her relationship with Neil was likely only for a small part of their life journey. I think the bigger problem with film criticism is that critics often get caught up in what they think the movie should be, rather than what the Director intends it be. This film and his misread of it is a perfect example of that. This is Malik's least successful film, but it's still astonishingly powerful, insightful and inspiring.


I'm a little put off by the discussion above, although as as subject for discourse I was excited to listen. It's probably inescapable when discussing Malick or any 'aueteur' that there will be those put off by criticism or by your praise.. and don't even think about straddling the fence! The root of that emotion interests me, as if you all are trying to strip this beauty I witnessed of its validity (which I know you are not). There is value in criticism.. and such an easy will for it (especially with high profile cases).. so it's hard for me to reconcile the reactionary anger I feel when so often I'm compelled to express similar renunciations of other's heroes. We are a warring community, not as ill humored as religious folks, but equally willing to die on the cross in the name of those pieces of art we love.

David H

I feel that the way you are discussing the film and its champions is unfair. I loved the film and found it moving, haunting and mesmerizing. I saw it 4 times.

I don't think that was just because I like the director a lot.


I wish when talking about Francis Ford Coppola you would of brought up his daughter a little bit, because she receives a great amount of praise and criticism.


I wish when talking about Francis Ford Coppola you would of brought up his daughter a little bit, because she receives a great amount of praise and criticism.


I wish when talking about Francis Ford Coppola you would of brought up his daughter a little bit, because she receives a great amount of praise and criticism.


I wish when talking about Francis Ford Coppola you would of brought up his daughter a little bit, because she receives a great amount of praise and criticism.


he goofed, we removed.


Yeah I also don't see how the link is related


"the idea of auteur worship in cinephile/critical circles (also known as vulgar auteurism)."

(No, it isn't. Read the link you just posted.)

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