Written by Joel Eastman, Staff Writer.
Famed American experimental filmmaker Terrence Malick has stirred tidal waves in the world of film from critics to fans alike with his recent praise of the once unanimously despised 2003 film by Tommy Wiseau, The Room. Best known for his directorial achievement in The Tree of Life (2012), which won a Palme d’Or in the Cannes Film Festival that year, Malick released a letter he had personally delivered to the American Film Institute on Monday highlighting various essential qualities that deem The Room worthy of the highest creative and intellectual acclaim cinema can offer. The letter, included below, discusses in lengthy, embellished prose the many cinematic merits of the film as well as the genius of its simultaneous director, writer, and lead actor, Wiseau, whom, Malick notes, is “unlike any cinematic auteur working today… the Frankensteinian love-child of Kubrick and Welles, an inarguable master of film!”
Dear critics and cinephiles of the American Film Institute,
My esteemed colleagues in the lavish toils of film making, last night I witnessed a masterpiece unlike any other, a film so grand and self-congratulatory yet subtly sublime it brought tears to my eyes and knots in the ventricles of my cinema-loving soul! It was a film I have not seen until now, despite its release in 2003, due to doubts of the film’s abilities stemming from the overwhelming and totally unfounded hate surrounding its style, story, and performance, all of which I now find incredibly varied, versed, and brilliantly contrived. In response to my recent enlightenment, it is my honor to present my nomination for this year’s addition to the achievement archives, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
This century has birthed a masterwork in The Room that has eluded the mind’s of critics like gold nuggets in the palms of monkeys who toss them away for nuts and citrus rinds. Critics as a whole have failed to conceptualize the rich history of cinematic prowess exemplified by every heart-wrenching character interaction and experimentally tactful camera angle. Though I will not delve too deeply into the mastery of each scene, for this letter would quickly become a book-length thesis, I will demonstrate the signature elements that define this alluring film as one of the century’s most daring.
Wiseau’s opening shot alone demonstrates a director exploring the artistry of his own egotistical prime through the city of San Francisco. The opening credits roll, offering his name to the masses, while the streets and water-ways of the city are visually explored, suggesting movement toward some inevitable spiritual and artistic apex. Wiseau himself, as the protagonist Johnny, is pictured on a trolley sliding down the street, simultaneous actor and director creating living experience yet unable to control his own destiny in the wild, tumultuous atmosphere of human existence. Such artistic progression and futile inevitability is further observed in the multiple vehicles of transportation: trolley, cars, boat… each exhibiting motion, yet passionless without human presence, that is except that of the director/actor/artist himself. Such a choice suggests the power of the film maker to impression the lives of those around him and satisfy his longing for ultimate mastery of space.
The key symbol of the film, roses, represents love- a cliche, yes, but one that is so unbelievably true to its flawed and broken origins, just like the often simplistic insanity of human desire itself. Johnny’s love interest, Lisa, exhibits a mirror to the rose motif through her red dress, rose-like, which unfurls, both symbolic of blooming and wilting, during the act of love-making, a scene that Wiseau wisely repeats three times in salute to the Taoist powers of three, suggesting simultaneous rapture and death. Such a powerful display is evidence of the mastery behind the image, a style unlike any cinematic auteur working today. It is on these terms that I label Tommy Wiseau the Frankensteinian love-child of Kubrick and Welles, an inarguable master of film!
It is my hope that these words have impressed upon you the magnificence of this unsung American classic. Please do accept it as the ideal film for this year’s choice for the AFI achievement archives.
Terrence Malick, Film Master
Immediately following his departure from the AFI headquarters, Malick was swarmed by the press, to whom he commented outright: “I wish I saw The Room before my work on The Tree of Life. It would have been a much different film, more sexy, raw, true to the human experience.” He then, to everyone’s awe, disclosed the specific changes he would have made to his own film, while speaking of Wiseau as though he was the literal God:
“Cannes winning or not, my hailed masterpiece pales like barn board in the sun beside this stylistic diamond. Where my film sought the lateral: evolution and human progression, Wiseau’s sought to capture the imperceptible now. Where I was rooted in modernity, He was purely postmodern, disinterested with anything beyond the most basic matters of form and function. Tennessee Williams should be honored to exist within the sights of this man’s admiration and should be praising this resurrected masterpiece of which the great Wiseau has created!”
The ultimate goal of the letter, Malick later stated, before boarding a flight back to his hometown in Ottawa, IL, was to “preserve those essential works like The Room that dare to challenge the narrative and philosophical norms that have for so long dominated the world of cinema.” Although the AFI has not yet commented on their decision related to The Room‘s inclusion in the archives, Malick’s claims have gone viral, incubating a newly impassioned cult following for the film from fans and Hollywood stars alike. Many are discovering new “brilliant” connections in the film, most notably Roger Ebert’s renowned film critic site, which has since revised previous statements of Ebert’s about The Room‘s “utter disgraceful, disgusting abominable contribution to the medium” to “utterly challenging to the core, difficult but ultimately intellectually worthwhile.”
Malick’s persuasive commentary also pushed many theaters to re-premier the film, most remarkably Hollywood’s famed TCL Chinese Theatre, which immediately released The Room for a two-week revival showing following Malick’s statement. Upon re-watching The Room, many critics gave it better reviews than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with particular consideration of Wiseau’s performance of Johnny as more believable and “poignantly realized” than Ben Affleck’s Batman. Rotten Tomatoes has likewise since elevated the film’s score from 35% to 70%, mentioning Malick’s praise as the catalyst for igniting the change. Presidential Candidate Donald Trump also gave his two cents on the matter, stating “I liked it. It was a good movie. Not as good as my movies. Nobody makes movies better than me. If I had made it, it would have gotten 100%. Still, I liked it.”
Though inciting shock-waves of excitement throughout Hollywood, many were not so keen on Terrence Malick’s stance on the film that has been known as “the worst film ever made” for ten years and running. Acclaimed action star, Bruce Willis, who has always been known to have practical artistic tastes and a bit of a temper, has been quoted stating: “Malick is full of shit. Both The Room and Tree of Life are boring as hell and, to say it bluntly, just self-promoting crap… like a crack whore seeking a quick fix to fame… total waste of time and money.”
Regardless of isolated instances of hate, Malick’s letter has been successful in opening the public’s minds and hearts to a film that may yet have the chance to exist, preserved, eternally to both inspire and challenge future generations of film makers and critics.
Joel Eastman is a wild card. Play writing, acting, and reporting all come naturally to him ever since his wife left him for “a gentler kind of man.” He likes to smoke cigars and curse under his breath at his local dive bar, where he sketches ideas for future plays and on the rare occasion a film or two. His favorite catch-phrase is “Whater you doing, punk? Go ahead, make my night,” to which people generally laugh a shake their heads muttering, “There goes Joel again.” Joel joined The Thirsty Thespian staff after reading a few previously published articles, which he deemed as “decent, but need improvement.”