Terrence Malick vs. Lars von Trier: Who Is Film's Leading Eccentric?

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We were excited to hear that Lars von Trier's Melancholia and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life will be among the 19 films screened in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In anticipation of the two unconventional (some might even say eccentric) auteurs squaring off next month, we've organized our own competition to determine which man should succeed the late Stanley Kubrick as the film world's most unpredictable elder statesman. Here's how Malick (left) and von Trier (right) stack up head-to-head:

Undisputed masterpiece

Malick's 1973 debut Badlands is widely considered one of the best films of the 1970s and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in 1993. No Von Trier movie has ever broken the 88 percent 'Fresh' threshold on Rotten Tomatoes. Advantage: Malick

Work habits

Counting The Tree of Life, Malick has directed five movies over the past 28 years, with a 20 year gap in between Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998). von Trier has made six features since 2000, and receives extra points for his short films and work on television in his native Denmark. Advantage: von Trier

Media accessibility

von Trier gives interviews. von Trier lets people take his photograph. von Trier did not disappear for two decades in the middle of his career and never explain why. The same cannot be said of Malick. Advantage: von Trier

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Willingness to engage in anti-American political rhetoric

von Trier's strongest category, and not just because Malick doesn't talk to the press. He ended Dogville with a montage of poverty-stricken American children, set to the tune of David Bowie's "Young Americans." In case anyone missed the message, he also called President Bush "an asshole" during publicity interviews for the film. Advantage: von Trier, though not all would call this an advantage.

Travel habits

Give Malick credit for being adventurous: while von Trier has never been to America, because he's afraid to fly, Malick relocated to Paris during his wilderness years, and shot The Thin Red Line on location in Australia. Advantage: Malick

Actor testimonials

Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line) on Malick:

''The film defies description, but you can't quantify Terry, either, Everyone thinks they've got a handle on Terry. He made two great films, and then he came back 20 years later and here comes a new one. He's just going to blindside you every time. He invented his style of filmmaking and his way of working. It didn't exist and, really, it still doesn't.''

Nicole Kidman (Dogville) on von Trier:

"At first I would cry because he would chastise me He could be really, incredibly tough on me — and he was. He could be strangely gentle with me as well, which is the thing that draws me back to him."

Advantage: Malick
Overall advantage: Malick

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.