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The Tree of Life (2011)


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LACMA is hosting a tribute to Malick this week and next. I plan on being there for Badlands and The Thin Red Line. I wouldn't be surprised to see Brett McCracken there, too. He's declared May to be Malick month over at his blog. If you're in the L.A. area and want to connect, what better place to meet than in a cathedral?

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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And now for clip number two.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A thought just occurred to me: Will this be the first Terrence Malick film that takes place even partly in the present day?

Badlands was one of many '70s films about the '50s, Days of Heaven takes place during (but not within) World War I, The Thin Red Line takes place during (and within) World War II, and The New World takes place in the early 17th century.

The Tree of Life, it seems, will similarly take place in some quasi-gauzily remembered past (the '50s again), but if Sean Penn is playing the grown-up version of Brad Pitt's son, then the Sean Penn scenes would have to be set in the present day, no?

(I suppose one could argue that the Sissy Spacek narration in Badlands is meant to take place in the "present day" as Spacek looks back on the events depicted there. But I don't think that's a given, by any stretch -- not unless there is some detail in the narration that must clearly come from a later point in time. Days of Heaven also had a lot of past-tense narration, if memory serves, but the narrator was the same age as the girl onscreen, so it's not like the narration was meant to reflect any maturing that she might have done in the intervening 60 years.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Persiflage wrote:

: Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't The Thin Red Line and The New World both wide release?

One of them was, yeah. Not so sure about the other.

The Thin Red Line opened in 5 theatres on Christmas Day, then expanded to 61 on January 8 before leaping to 1,528 on January 15 (and it climbed as high as 1,657 on January 29).

The New World, on the other hand... First, the 150-minute version was released to 3 theatres for two weeks, starting on the Christmas weekend. Then it was yanked for a couple weeks. And then the 135-minute version was released to only 811 theatres on January 20, and it dwindled from there. (A thousand theatres is generally regarded as the cutoff between a "wide" release and a not-wide release.)

The Thin Red Line got as high as #4 on the weekly domestic chart, grossed $98.1 million worldwide, and scored 7 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director (no wins, though); whereas The New World never cracked the Top 10, grossed only $30.5 million worldwide, and was nominated for only 1 Oscar (for cinematography; again, not a win).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Los Angeles Times passes on an amusing detail:

In Texas, the movie shot in three houses all made to look like the same one, so Malick could shift easily between them depending on the light at a given moment, with the production often packing up in one house and running to the next in the middle of the day. Malick used no artificial lighting and often pointed the camera away from the actors’ performances, toward the wind and the sky. Cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki said “Tree” was “like no set I’ve ever worked on.”

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The Los Angeles Times passes on an amusing detail:

Malick ... often pointed the camera away from the actors’ performances, toward the wind and the sky.

Oh. My. Vishnu.

:cuss:

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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The Los Angeles Times passes on an amusing detail:

In Texas, the movie shot in three houses all made to look like the same one, so Malick could shift easily between them depending on the light at a given moment, with the production often packing up in one house and running to the next in the middle of the day. Malick used no artificial lighting and often pointed the camera away from the actors’ performances, toward the wind and the sky. Cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki said “Tree” was “like no set I’ve ever worked on.”

Yep.

The Los Angeles Times passes on an amusing detail:

In Texas, the movie shot in three houses all made to look like the same one, so Malick could shift easily between them depending on the light at a given moment, with the production often packing up in one house and running to the next in the middle of the day. Malick used no artificial lighting and often pointed the camera away from the actors’ performances, toward the wind and the sky. Cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki said “Tree” was “like no set I’ve ever worked on.”

Some of that sounds very familiar.

More duplicate replies! :)

And heh, yeah, I remember recognizing parts of that article from other articles. I guess maybe the entire thing was a pastiche?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Interesting. On Twitter, Mike D'Angelo said that for the first hour he thought he might break the Internet by posting his first 100-point score for a contemporary film. It ended up getting a 70: "Was blown away so long as it kept speeding through time & space. A lesser thing once it settles in the '50s." A friend tweeted:

approx. quote from film: "if you are too good, you won't succeed." That about sums it up. Precious/universal to point of saying nil, it's National Geographic w/plot. Ellipses gives needed abstraction, but not nearly enough. Obvi, Tree of Life will be seen by many as this generation's 2001; Kubrick choked me up w/a robot, Malick left me cold w/a group of humans. this is the first Malick I don't think is great.
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Darren H wrote:

: Interesting. On Twitter, Mike D'Angelo said that for the first hour he thought he might break the Internet by posting his first 100-point score for a contemporary film. It ended up getting a 70: "Was blown away so long as it kept speeding through time & space. A lesser thing once it settles in the '50s."

This seems to be a not-uncommon reaction. E.g., Jeffrey Wells:

I understand the frustration, mind, because The Tree of Life does lose itself in its own impressionistic quicksand after the first half-hour. It begins to drown, sink, swallow itself. The center cannot hold. But it's entirely worth seeing (and praising) for the portions that clearly and unmistakably deliver.

Total Film:

Utterly mesmerising first hour, slightly listless second, generally unmissable.

(FWIW, an apparently different Total Film writer also tweeted: "visually breathtaking and technically masterful, but excruciatingly drawn out and annoyingly pretentious".)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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That's funny. D'Angelo's reaction is just about exactly the review I'd begun to expect I would end up writing about this film. We'll see...

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The thing about these "first hour good, second hour kinda dull" responses is that they pretty much match my reaction to The Thin Red Line, both times I saw that film -- except there, we had TWO good first hours, followed by a dull third hour.

Some people still praised TTRL as a "masterpiece", though, so I'd be surprised if TToL didn't get a similar reaction in some quarters. It's interesting, though, that Darren's friend apparently considers TTRL "great" and this film NOT "great".

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Brad Pitt On Malick's Cannes Absence: "He Focuses On Building Houses, Not Selling Real Estate"

So Brad Pitt IS a real-estate salesman, by that "logic."

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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Dennis Lim:

Mr. Malick’s work has long been discussed in philosophical terms — his background as a Heidegger scholar is often invoked — but increasingly his films bespeak an unfashionably overt interest in spirituality. Biblical references run through the films, and “The Tree of Life” opens with a quotation from the Book of Job. But Ms. Chastain, who prepared for her role by studying paintings of the Madonna and practicing meditation, said she does not see it as a film about Christianity. “I consider him more of a spiritual person than a religious person,” Mr. Fisk said.

Mr. Malick has already shot — and is starting to edit — his sixth feature. Set in the present day, the still-untitled film stars Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, and has been described as a romance. As always with Mr. Malick, everyone involved is tight-lipped, but Mr. Lubezki and Mr. Fisk, who both worked on it, said it is his boldest film yet. “It makes ‘Tree’ almost seem old-fashioned,” Mr. Fisk said.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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A few critics I've read have made a point of not spoiling the ending, but of saying that its meaning will be debated.

Now, however, Lou Lumenick (who says Malick's new movie is "not a pretentious bore like his last, 'The New World'" -- make what you will of THAT!) has apparently given away the final scene and offered two of the interpretations that are already out there, one of which is kind of religious but in a way that entrenches my skepticism about the whole "male/nature vs. female/grace" dynamic that the movie seems to be working with.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Dennis Lim:

Mr. Malick’s work has long been discussed in philosophical terms — his background as a Heidegger scholar is often invoked — but increasingly his films bespeak an unfashionably overt interest in spirituality. Biblical references run through the films, and “The Tree of Life” opens with a quotation from the Book of Job. But Ms. Chastain, who prepared for her role by studying paintings of the Madonna and practicing meditation, said she does not see it as a film about Christianity. “I consider him more of a spiritual person than a religious person,” Mr. Fisk said.

Mr. Malick has already shot — and is starting to edit — his sixth feature. Set in the present day, the still-untitled film stars Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, and has been described as a romance. As always with Mr. Malick, everyone involved is tight-lipped, but Mr. Lubezki and Mr. Fisk, who both worked on it, said it is his boldest film yet. “It makes ‘Tree’ almost seem old-fashioned,” Mr. Fisk said.

It often seems Christians, when being described by people who respect but don't necessarily share their faith, are labeled generically as "spiritual." Even if Malick is a follower of Christ, I sort of suspect, given his reclusive and private nature, that even his closest colleagues don't know how to categorize him. On that topic, Fisk's remarks about the upcoming, tentatively titled THE BURIAL are exciting. It seems that Malick is completely uncorking his deepest philosophical and "spiritual" beliefs in his most recent work.

Edited by Mark T. Ingham
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