The Tree of Life reviews

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby rolotomasi99 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:03 am

Mister Tee wrote:I do wonder if this film, so concentrated on a boy's childhood, would seem as familiar/relatable to women. Is childhood an entirely different experience for the female? I wish we had some around here to weigh in on the subject.


Well, my mother saw it and loved it. She was born in 1950 and she said she was struck by the authentic production design -- from the cars to the houses to the clothes to even the plates and cups they used for dinner (Roger Ebert mentioned these aspects as well in his review). She also related to the nature of being a kid in the 50's, with hardly any TV and certainly no video games and computers. Kids actually played outside! Maybe it helps that my mother was a tomboy, but she said she could relate to everything the three boys did, except for when they started getting into trouble by breaking windows and torturing animals. My mom said she loved the film for many reasons, but the authenticity really helped her connect to the story and characters.

I think there will be many baby boomers in the Academy, male or female, who will really relate to this film because of Malick's eye for those details. I know the year is not even half over, but I would not count this film out when it comes to Oscar. I also expect it will be on many, many top ten lists, and will win many critics awards.
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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:37 pm

Tree of Life deserves many paragraphs, but my life's complications limit me to just a few overall observations right now. (Again, I haven't read anyone else's thoughts, so if I seem to challenge or echo anyone's take, it was purely happenstance, and I'll deal with that later)

When a friend and I emerged from Altman's Popeye in 1980, we were agog at how Altman had created such a beautifully off-center, comic-book environment, but at the same time aghast at how he'd bungled the final chase at sea, something your everyday Hollywood hack could have managed better. My friend said, You know, in a certain way, he doesn't know how to make a MOVIE; he only only knows how to make Altmans. Though Terence Malick didn't start out that way -- Badlands had its striking visuals, but the narrative was well within the standard of the time -- he's evolved to something similar. You don't hire Terence Malick to make a run of the mill script, any more than you hire Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell to perform the Broadway songbook. You hire him to make Malicks. Some voices are meant for their own songs only.

I've had my issues with Malick in recent times. Much as I was held by the entire taking-the-hill sequence in The Thin Red Line, that last 40 minutes in the river was close to incomprehensible for me and caused me to gradually tune out. Similarly, The New World lost me once it went back to Europe, leaving a middling impression after a strong start.

I have no such issues with The Tree of Life. It does have sequences that challenge comprehension (or invite deep-hidden-meaning contests that should delight college English majors), but they're relatively brief and don't seem so distant and meandering as to undermine the remainder of the film. And that "remainder" -- most of the film -- is mesmerizing on two levels.

The first is simply visual. I can't think of recent directorial work that's quite this extraordinary. Every frame of the film seems to have been planned with the utmost care: whether the subject of the shot, the angle, the lighting, or incidental background feature, I had the sense that, over and over, I was looking at a perfectly set picture. At the same time, there was never a moment when this sequence of shots felt static. There's a constant sense of movement, as the film seems to almost fly at times. (There are five editors credited, and you can see why: this film may contain more shots than any serious film in memory) Malick doesn't tell his story conventionally -- sequences are brief, even ephemeral. Yet each shot in the film feels like it's showing us something fuller, in a kind of synecdoche: momentary shots stand for fuller episodes in this family's life.

And it's a life I recognize. Even though I grew up on the sidewalks of Queens, not in a tree-lined Waco neighborhood, it felt like my childhood up there. So many brief flashes seemed to echo events in my young life -- and they weren't of a Spielberg-ian, long-lost age of innocence sort, but of a time where fun and excitement intermingled constantly with anxiousness and danger. I of course was a child at the same time as this film chronicles, so that may be why I respond -- or it may be Malick has simply captured some essence of childhood that's universal, and that poses some interesting eternal questions (like, Does your father seem distant and scary because of some flaw in him, or simply because he's bigger that you and in command?).

I do wonder if this film, so concentrated on a boy's childhood, would seem as familiar/relatable to women. Is childhood an entirely different experience for the female? I wish we had some around here to weigh in on the subject.

I've read a few pieces elsewhere that delve deep into the Meaning of the Film, particularly the last segment. I have to say, on a certain level, I don't care what it all means. I know the film washed over me like a great poem, and I'm content to accept Macleish's "A poem should not mean but be" as my guide. I experienced the film as incredibly powerful, poetic cinema, and I don't need to have the symbolism of the water-hose explained to enhance that experience. I may not be able to point-by-point explain the film, but I definitely "got" it.

There are clearly going to be people who don't respond to this film -- your average multiplexer will be bored senseless. But those who at least on occasion look for art in cinema should consider this a major new entry. I haven't been as blow away by a film in quite some time.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby rolotomasi99 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:29 pm

I am writing this just a couple hours after seeing the film. I actually came home and had to take a nap. Not because I was tired, but because I truly believe my brain had to shut down and process what I had just seen.

I have read everyone's response so far in this thread, and you all use such big words. :D I can only discuss this film cinematically, not philosophically. I have seen all of Malick's films and have appreciated all of them as great cinema, but this might be the first time I emotionally connected to anything he had made. I honestly could have sat there and watched several more hours of these young boys interact with each other and their parents. It was storytelling unlike any I had seen before. Maybe it is how prevalent "Reality Television" has become, but there were several times I had to remind myself this was not a documentary I was watching. In some ways, I wish Brad Pitt and Sean Penn had not been cast in the film. My familiarity with them is what kept reminding me we were not watching the most intimate moments of a real family.

We often hear the refrain "Show, don't tell" when it comes to film. The real difference between mainstream cinema and art house cinema is how explicitly everything has to be spelled out for everyone. People feel like they have been ripped off if the movie does not hold their hand. People feel angry if everyone in the audience does not arrive to the same place once the credits role, as if people having different reactions and interpretations to a film is some sort of insult. Perhaps people are embarrassed if they do not understand and experience what their friends or critics understand and experience from the film they just watched. Malick trusts us to figure things out, not through dialogue or precisely shot scenes mapping out every emotion or thought of the characters.

A wonderful example of this on the simplest level is a moment toward the end where the two oldest boys go off in a field and hold each other and cry. No words are said, and nothing in the proceeding scenes have prepared us for why they are being so emotional. In the next scene we see the family packing up the car with all their belongings and driving away from their home. The boys were crying because they are leaving the place they grew up, the only place they have ever known. Other movies would have to make sure every audience member knew this with some silly narration or expository dialogue. Malick gives us the visual cues, and then expects us to keep up. If you miss it, then you do not deserve any special help to have the point made clear.

Another wonderful scene which would have played very differently in another film is right after the older brother, Jack, shot his younger brother, R.L., with the bb gun. We see them sitting by the window, and Jack kisses R.L.'s arm, which I saw as him saying he was sorry to his brother. R.L. wipes away his brother's kiss, which was him saying he did not accept his apology. Jack again kisses his brother's arm, and R.L. again wipes away his brother's kiss. Then Jack hands R.L. a piece of wood and says his brother can hit him if he wants. R.L. pretends to hit his brother, smiles, and then puts the wood down. Next we see the two brothers embracing, all is forgiven. I found this to be a beautiful moment, and one so "authentic" it could never exist in a mainstream film. Audiences would need the traditional scene of yelling, blame, maybe some tears, and then finally forgiveness and resolution. They need everything spelled out for them, but here you only get the emotion. This is how forgiveness feels.

Side note: I have read a couple reviews describe this scene as homoerotic, which I find very odd. Since when is a simple kiss on the arm between two brothers in any way "erotic"? We have seriously lowered the bar on homoeroticism if something so non-sexual can be placed in that category.

I have many other thoughts and feelings on this film, but I want to put more space (and sleep) between me and the film. I also want to give some responses to other people's reactions once I have a better grip on my own.

In terms of Oscar chances, I think Terrence Malick certainly has a very good shot at being nominated for director. If we still were only nominating five films for Best Picture, THE TREE OF LIFE would probably not make it. Much like THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST or BLUE VELVET, this feels like a film the other branches will not know what to do with (except the cinematographers) but the directors will want to reward Malick's singular vision. With ten nominees though, THE TREE OF LIFE could have a shot. Only a few people have to put it as their number one film for it to receive a nomination. I think enough people will include it. Possible nominations: Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, and maybe even F/X (hey, if HEREAFTER can be nominated for its quick tsunami scene then the creation of the cosmos could certainly earn this film a nomination).

As for the battle between THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE TREE OF LIFE Italiano started (not your intention, I know), I would say THE SOCIAL NETWORK is prose while THE TREE OF LIFE is poetry. In literature, prose is not better than poetry. They are just very different forms of the same art. THE THREE OF LIFE is an art film in every sense of the phrase, and I am happy it exists in the world.
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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:31 pm

I'll write more about this tomorrow, when I feel more up to it. But my baseline reaction is, this is a major achievement in American art cinema. As Pauline Kael once wrote about Bertolucci's 1900 (a movie she recognized had flaws), it makes most other movies feel like something served up on a toothpick.

I'm also waiting to read everyone else's responses until after I've put my own down.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:20 pm

The Dardennes brothers didn't leave Cannes empty-handed. They tied Nuri Bilge Ceylan for the Grand Prix.
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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Uri » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:53 am

Exactly my point –for them to leave Cannes empty handed says a lot. Not even Miss Congeniality, for God's sake.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Okri » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:23 am

Heh. Of the many words that could be said about the Dardennes and Cannes, "poor" seems inaccurate.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Uri » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:44 am

This is going to be one hell of a defensive post.

I saw TToL yesterday with my rather highly perceptive, deeply compassionate and very soberly no-nonsense 23 year old niece and she hated practically every bit of it. Coming out of the theatre, she said she was struggling to articulate to herself why it irritated her so much. It reminded me of the time when as an extremely precocious 6 year old she insisted on seeing Howard's End on tv after being told it's not suitable for her age. She obviously believed it had something to do with sexual content, so she was surprised I let her stay up and watch it. She fell asleep 5 minutes into it. Later she was furious with us adults for enjoying it – she was deeply offended for being left out of the party. In a way this is how I feel about TToL – it must be this beautiful locked garden, only I have no access to its key.

This is a case when I guess one person's primal, eternal and divine is the other's simplistic, obvious and over the top. The way it was presented to me, I arrived to it somehow being aware of the fact I'd have to work rather hard to connect with it, and I believe I had – work hard, that is. I know my limitations. The way I evaluate the universe it analytical rather than intuitive. Big time. And this is not the right frame of mind one should apply to TToL. Every time my critical awareness raised its ugly cynical head I felt so emotionally crippled – why can't I immerse myself in the sheer esthetics of it, suspense my over evolved, rigid and over powering pseudo intellectual point of view. But in front of all the philosophically spiritual or spiritually philosophic stuff I just couldn't help myself and through great deal of it I felt like I was Andrea Dvorkin watching Pretty Woman. I just cringed.

I did manage to salvage this quite lovely film about the world as seen through the eyed of a preteen boy. But it was buried under so much meta artistic maneuvers and new age agenda (give me some credit – this is the third paragraph and it's the first time I use this term). I'm not talking about the reincarnation of The Rite of Spring segment from Fantasia – this was an element I knew of beforehand so I kind of allow myself to flow along with it – it was pretty. (My philistine niece, not being prepared, just burst laughing, poor soul). On the other hand the theological stuff was indeed, without any reservations, a complete turnoff. My existence is totally God free, so I must have the ability to apply some kind of alienation mechanism – artistic, esthetic, symbolic, you name it – in order to response to the representation of faith in a piece of art. Here, and this is probably a huge compliment, it can't be done. It's so completely integrated in. Once again, it's all about my inhibitions and self guarding. Mea culpa.

But yes, there is a lot to admire here, but it's always must be followed by some kind of reservation. I'll elaborate on one aspect, close to me. TToL features one of the grandest examples of cinematic use of architecture I can remember. A lot of the narrative is being conveyed by the choices of the houses people live in, the way people and actions are framed in and move through interior and exterior architectural spaces. A great deal of untold stuff can be perceived out of it too. The chick, modernist house the family lives in the earlier scenes, compared with the traditional, cozier one they haves later in the film but earlier in life suggest not only the different emotional place the family is in but also the fact that after losing his job the father did manage to prosper, probably thanks to one of his inventions. But then again, the way architecture is used in the contemporary sections o TToL is so simplistic, so jarringly declarative. Jack needs to come to terms with his past since his current existence is so alienated, he lives in this cold, state of the art architectural habitation space – it's not a REAL home, you know, like the one he grew up in. The verticality of the skyscrapers his tormented self must spend its days in are being constantly depicted, using the same kind of shots but in totally contrasting palette and score, as the opposite of the verticality of his childhood trees or as lacking the majestic, eternal quality of cliffs and creeks. And off course, for the salvation to be found one must escape the constrained modern cityscape and be one with the uninterrupted Nature. Subtlety is not the word I'd use here, I'm afraid.

Marco, I know that the worst approach one might apply when talking about art, or rather Art, is that of the American PC gender sensibility, but I must refer to the way women in general are depicted in TToL, and particularly the mother. Actually, women are not depicted in TToL. At best they are blur figures on the background. (I'd love to get to know more about the Fiona Shaw's character though. Her brief performance suggested such warmth and compassion I really yearned to see more of her). And then there's the mother. My niece stated that as much as she loved to find out there are so many ways to beautifully dress a stunning redhead (not such an obvious task it seems, according to this budding, self made fashion icon), the mother was all wrong – she was too young, too girl like, totally not in tune with the father, but not in the way the narrative suggested. And yes, more than any other character in the Past section, her character was the most generically abstracted. It's not about not being a fully, balanced well rounded person. All these people are actually fragments of Jack's memory, which is just fine. But her character comes off as the manifestation of an old man idea of "pure" femininity, which off course must be in the shape of a pretty, forever young pre Rafaelian Madonna. There is nothing in her to suggest she is a particular mother of a particular child. However young a parent is, for its offspring he or she will always look a mature being, and there is no real reason for the vast age gap between Pitt and Chastain. It comes again to the fact that while men are seen as individuals, way too often woman in art is perceived as a representation of some notion of femininely. Add to this the Svegali that is in way to many directors when it comes to casting actresses and you can see why of the four leading actors in this film, the two male adults are played by superstars while the child and the woman (is there really a difference here) are played by the relative unknowns.

But the familiar nature of representation of female here – women were objectify this way since the days of the sphinx - is in such synchronization with a great deal of the other self declared Artistic stuff here. After all, it's all about being Classic, isn't it?


p.s. In the last few days I saw two of this year Cannes winners – this one and Footnote. Knowing who some of the jury were, I can't help imagining what made them make the choices they made – the top prize went to the most obviously artistic, yet starring the jury president's mate, entry, the prize for best script went to that film which is all about words, and has so many of them and they are all off that old holly language, and best actress went to our Hollywood kid who was brave enough to work with that lunatic Dane – and isn't she friends with Francis's daughter? – and best actor to that French guy we could have swore was American – silent movies are tricky that way, you know.

The poor Dardensnes had no chance. Zilch.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Jun 02, 2011 10:19 pm

I'd be astonished if Roger Ebert didn't call The Tree of Life his favorite movie of the year.


The Tree of Life
BY ROGER EBERT / June 2, 2011
cast & credits
Mr. O'Brien Brad Pitt
Mrs. O'Brien Jessica Chastain
Jack Sean Penn
Grandmother Fiona Shaw
Young Jack Hunter
McCracken

Fox Searchlight presents a film written and directed by Terrence Malick. Running time: 138 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for thematic material).
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Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" is a film of vast ambition and deep humility, attempting no less than to encompass all of existence and view it through the prism of a few infinitesimal lives. The only other film I've seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," and it lacked Malick's fierce evocation of human feeling. There were once several directors who yearned to make no less than a masterpiece, but now there are only a few. Malick has stayed true to that hope ever since his first feature in 1973.

I don't know when a film has connected more immediately with my own personal experience. In uncanny ways, the central events of "The Tree of Life" reflect a time and place I lived in, and the boys in it are me. If I set out to make an autobiographical film, and if I had Malick's gift, it would look so much like this. His scenes portray a childhood in a town in the American midlands, where life flows in and out through open windows. There is a father who maintains discipline and a mother who exudes forgiveness, and long summer days of play and idleness and urgent unsaid questions about the meaning of things.

The three boys of the O'Brien family are browned by the sun, scuffed by play, disturbed by glimpses of adult secrets, filled with a great urgency to grow up and discover who they are.

I wrote earlier about the many ways this film evoked my own memories of such time and place. About wide lawns. About a town that somehow, in memory, is always seen with a wide-angle lens. About houses that are never locked. About mothers looking out windows to check on their children. About the summer heat and ennui of church services, and the unpredictable theater of the dinner table, and the troubling sounds of an argument between parents, half-heard through an open window.



(Enlarge Image)
Watching the film, I remembered Ray Bradbury's memory of a boy waking up to the sound of a Green Machine outside his window — a hand-pushed lawnmower. Perhaps you grew up in a big city, with the doors locked and everything air-conditioned. It doesn't matter. Most of us, unless we are unlucky, have something of the same childhood, because we are protected by innocence and naivete.

As I mentioned the O'Brien family, I realized one detail the film has precisely right: The parents are named Mr. O'Brien and Mrs. O'Brien. Yes. Because the parents of other kids were never thought of by their first names, and the first names of your own parents were words used only by others. Your parents were Mother and Father, and they defined your reality, and you were open to their emotions, both calming and alarming. And young Jack O'Brien is growing, and someday will become Mr. O'Brien, but will never seem to himself as real as his father did.

Rarely does a film seem more obviously a collaboration of love between a director and his production designer, in this case, Jack Fisk. Fisk is about my age and was born and raised in Downstate Illinois, and so of course knows that in the late '40s, tall aluminum drinking glasses were used for lemonade and iced tea. He has all the other details right, too, but his design fits seamlessly into the lives of his characters. What's uncanny is that Malick creates the O'Brien parents and their three boys without an obvious plot: The movie captures the unplanned unfolding of summer days, and the overheard words of people almost talking to themselves.

The film's portrait of everyday life, inspired by Malick's memories of his hometown of Waco, Texas, is bounded by two immensities, one of space and time, and the other of spirituality. "The Tree of Life" has awe-inspiring visuals suggesting the birth and expansion of the universe, the appearance of life on a microscopic level and the evolution of species. This process leads to the present moment, and to all of us. We were created in the Big Bang and over untold millions of years, molecules formed themselves into, well, you and me.

And what comes after? In whispered words near the beginning, "nature" and "grace" are heard. We have seen nature as it gives and takes away; one of the family's boys dies. We also see how it works with time, as Jack O'Brien (Hunter McCracken) grows into a middle-aged man (Sean Penn). And what then? The film's coda provides a vision of an afterlife, a desolate landscape on which quiet people solemnly recognize and greet one another, and all is understood in the fullness of time.

Some reviews have said Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt, crew-cut, never more of a regular guy) is too strict as a disciplinarian. I don't think so. He is doing what he thinks is right, as he was reared. Mrs. O'Brien (the ethereal Jessica Chastain) is gentler and more understanding, but there is no indication she feels her husband is cruel. Of course children resent discipline, and of course a kid might sometimes get whacked at the dinner table circa 1950. But listen to an acute exchange of dialogue between Jack and his father. "I was a little hard on you sometimes," Mr. Brien says, and Jack replies: "It's your house. You can do what you want to." Jack is defending his father against himself. That's how you grow up. And it all happens in this blink of a lifetime, surrounded by the realms of unimaginable time and space.
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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon May 30, 2011 3:19 am

Sabin wrote:Also, I did say I think it's closer to Tarkovsky than Kubrick, but one must mention the comparisons because they're being made so much.



I know, and I agree with you. By the way, and since you mentioned Pauline Kael, on the Italian movie board I go to, someone - just to give an example of how even important critics often can't "get" a certain kind of movies - quoted parts of what he says was Kael's review of 2001- and it's honestly rather embarassing. I don't know if those quotes (translated into Italian) are correct and of course taken out of context they may be misleading, but her dismissal of Kubrick's movie, if true, would certainly be a memorable critical faux pas.

As for the ending - which I, too, had some problems with - I tend now to see it more as a state of mind, a metaphysical (and, as such, philosophical) blending of those two opposites, Nature and Grace; but others see it as a kind of "afterlife", and there will probably be several other interpretations.

As for The Social Network, mine was a joke - and I didn't exactly referred to those who simply considered it a good movie, but to those who really saw it as a great one, a masterpiece. I wondered what they would make of The Tree of Life then. But take Original BJ's review of this movie, for example. It's intelligent. There are things in it they I can only agree with - for example even I expected more from the Sean Penn section. And while I don't think that The Tree of Life is Malick's "worst" movie - that would be in my opinion The New World - unlike others I don't think it's his best, either. Still - and don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing him - you get that it's a review by someone who liked The Social Network.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sun May 29, 2011 9:04 pm

The Tree of Life is probably my least favorite Terrence Malick film. Of course, I think the others are among the greatest movies ever, so that downgrade should be interpreted accordingly -- I still think this is a very impressive, hugely accomplished work. It's a big movie, in its ambition as well as in its ideas, and should be celebrated and analyzed in a manner fitting its complexity. But I do have some minor quibbles that prevent me from embracing it quite as ecstatically as I expected I would, and I might as well start there.

What's amazing to me about Malick's work is that, despite fairly languid pacing throughout all of his films, there are few moments I feel like I'd want to remove. And while I think The Tree of Life is mostly intoxicating, it's the Malick film that contains the most moments I feel like I could do without. To put it bluntly: I'm not sure I'd miss this film's ancillary segments if they'd been cut. What I did like about the Sean Penn section of the film was the way in which Malick uses his trademark style of photography -- one that immerses you in the natural world -- in a new-for-him setting: present-day, citified, corporate America. I think there's room for plenty of debate about whether or not the film thinks this environment is any more or less beautiful, and, conversely, any more or less oppressive, than the natural world, and so it provides compelling contrast the rest of the film. But I can't say the Sean Penn sequences enriched the story in a way I thought vital, or provided as much insight into this character as I might have wished. (And I, too, wasn't entirely sure how to read the beach finale either.)

And then there's what is bound to be the most controversial segment of the film: the creation of the world sequence. (A good number of viewers in my theater walked out during this part of the film.) I think visually and musically, the sequence is entrancing. It's eye-popping filmmaking. And I wasn't bored. But...does it belong in this movie? I'm really not sure. I applaud the bravado -- and seriously, it takes guts to stick a sequence like this fairly early on in a movie these days -- but, as with the Penn segments, I felt it took me away from the story I found interesting without adding to it in a way that justified its length.

But enough with the quibbles. I think the 1950's segment of the film -- the bulk of the movie -- is fascinating. The juxtaposition of the images -- and the editing rhythms especially -- really give you a feeling of life being lived, of the day-to-day experiences of one family in small-town America as its children grow and change. It's incredible to me that a film with such a loose narrative -- and, of all of Malick's films, I think this is the one with the most rambling plot -- can hook the viewer in such a way. There's a great sense of danger that hangs over the movie, and perhaps this is what kept me enraptured, eager to learn what would happen next, despite the fact that...not much was actually happening at all.

There's also a great line early on in the film that sums up what I think the movie is about. After the son's death (not really a spoiler, as it happens at the opening of the film), Fiona Shaw tells Jessica Chastain something along the lines of 'people die, life moves on.' During this scene, I felt she was being rather harsh -- her daughter just lost her son, for god's sakes! But as the film goes on, so much of it seems to reinforce how true such a statement is. Characters die. Jobs disappear. Houses are lost. But life indeed keeps rolling along. Sometimes we wish we could hold on to the past -- as Chastain says when she replies that she doesn't want her pain to go away -- but we cannot, and often life is all the sadder for it. (This thematic line ultimately ties in the dinosaurs -- relics of another epoch that the world has long passed by -- though I still don't feel they truly fit with the rest of the movie.)

And, as is to be expected, the visuals are eye-popping, though in a way I didn't anticipate. Malick and his cinematographers have consistently given us some of the cinema's greatest panoramic views of the natural world -- his films truly remind me how beautiful our world is. But here, the camera sticks quite a bit closer to the film's characters, presenting what you might call more luxuriously lit versions of the Dardennes' famed behind-the-ear shots. The camerawork allows the audience to feel as if we are eavesdropping on the characters' lives, privy to certain fleeting moments, but not others, forced to piece together our understanding of this family from bits and pieces of what we observe...and isn't that how we understand other people in life anyway?

The classical music choices are superb as well. There's no way this film will be eligible for a score Oscar, but there was one moment, during an absolutely heavenly piece of music, when I thought, yup, that's Desplat.

I can't say any of the performances stuck out for me, though, once again, Brad Pitt has picked a super-cool project to headline. And Jessica Chastain, looking much like a young Liv Ullmann, has a face made for the cinema, or at least a certain kind of cinema that knows how to use faces, as Malick's films do.

I'm sure I will have more to say once others have been able to see the film. I think The Tree of Life is a movie to treasure, to submit to, to grapple with, to sometimes be frustrated by, but certainly not to miss.

And I also like The Social Network.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun May 29, 2011 1:11 pm

(ITALIANO » Sun May 29, 2011 3:18 am)
And these thoughts are very interesting. I may not agree with all of them, but, I mean, I can only hope that most Americans will think this way (by the way, even I don't quite agree with the often-repeated parallels with 2001 - still, as far as I know, 2001 became soon a cultural phenomenon when it came out, and I wish that the same will happen to The Tree of Life, but of course I doubt it will).

It's absolutely going to happen with The Tree of Life! You don't think so? The only difference is it will become a cult phenomenon without benefit of midnight screenings in ample supply. But it will be seen by some people again and again. If Enter the Void can become a cult smash, so can The Tree of Life.

Also, I did say I think it's closer to Tarkovsky than Kubrick, but one must mention the comparisons because they're being made so much.

(ITALIANO » Sun May 29, 2011 3:18 am)
Yes, the ending - I had some problems with it too, though after a few days I'm starting to appreciate it. I don't think it has anything to do with the end of the world (that would be Steven Spielberg, not Terrence Malick!), but it's certainly open to interpretation.

Cool. Whaddaya got?

I'm on a little more than twelve hours past my viewing, and much of it spent asleep, so I don't quite have any deepened perspective on it. However, there is always the act of watching it, the act of letting it sink in, and then the act of watching it again. Watching it, I attempted to grasp it and did not much care for it. Until the next two, what is your interpretation? In reading Pauline Kael's old review of Days of Heaven, she likes the film to a Christmas tree you can hang your old metaphors on. I certainly disagree with that point, but the end of The Tree of Life could certain warrant a verse or two of O Tannenaum.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sun May 29, 2011 11:37 am

I was not a Social Network fanatic. I thought it was a fine film certainly. Of course, Black Swan was my top film of 2010, so it's hard to compare. And I think that The Thin Red Line is a masterpiece, so I'm not quite sure how I would fit into your paradigm, Italiano.
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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby Greg » Sun May 29, 2011 10:31 am

ITALIANO wrote:. . . but then I thought - and I still feel - that it would be dead here anyway - with a few exceptions, I doubt many would like it (certainly not those who went crazy for The Social Network), and it's a pity.


Well, I loved The Social Network and am looking forward to seeing The Tree Of Life when it opens where I live.
You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.

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Re: The Tree of Life reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun May 29, 2011 4:18 am

[quote="Sabin"]A more coherent take will be coming soon, but here are some scattered thoughts:


And these thoughts are very interesting. I may not agree with all of them, but, I mean, I can only hope that most Americans will think this way (by the way, even I don't quite agree with the often-repeated parallels with 2001 - still, as far as I know, 2001 became soon a cultural phenomenon when it came out, and I wish that the same will happen to The Tree of Life, but of course I doubt it will).

I'm reasonably sure that the movie is very much about philosophy, and for once intentionally so - made by someone who studied philosophy and knows what he's talking about (that some of this philosophy may sound "simple" - not "banal", simple - is also appropriate, because while the intellectual process of philosophy is always complex and intricate, its conclusions can be simple, but simple only as the consequence of profound). Yet it's true that it's not only about philosophy, and that it has to be experienced also - mostly? - as a sensory experience, otherwise you "lose" the movie, you lose connection with it.

Yes, the ending - I had some problems with it too, though after a few days I'm starting to appreciate it. I don't think it has anything to do with the end of the world (that would be Steven Spielberg, not Terrence Malick!), but it's certainly open to interpretation.


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