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"...the way of nature, and the way of grace."
May 26, 2011 10:50 PM   Subscribe

For Roger Ebert, it's a prayer that made him "more alert to the awe of existence." For Rober Koehler, it's a kitschy New Age con. For Richard Brody, it perfectly captures the essence of a generation by depicting a character thinking "back to the musings and fantasies of childhood, which are the product of a wondrous and fantastic view of science formed by popular-science books for children and by the commercial artists whose illustrations adorned them." For Stephanie Zacharek, it's "a gargantuan work of pretension." For Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, it's "a creation myth in the guise of a crypto-autobiography" that invents a universe of its own only to destroy it. For J. Hoberman, it's lifeless and dull, "essentially a religious work and, as such, may please the director's devotees, cultists, and apologists." It spent thirty years in development, three in editing and, yes, it contains dinosaurs. The Tree of Life, written and directed by famously reclusive Zoolander fan and "JD Salinger of American movies" Terrence Malick , won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Tomorrow, it comes out in the United States.

Further recommendations:
posted by alexoscar (64 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome! It's a great time to be a Terrence Malick fan in Los Angeles. I just saw Badlands at LACMA with Sissy Spacek in person, and now The Tree of Life screens here in an hour and three minutes. I can't wait to get back and chew into the discussion.
posted by mykescipark at 10:56 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Great post! Terence Malick is great at his brand of impressionism, though the sentimentality can get a bit to syrupy for me. I liked Badlands and Days of Heaven, but The Thin Red Line is really Malick's masterpiece. The battle scenes are tense and brooding, with a fantastic score. Parts, though are overly sentimental and mawkish, though, which was my problem with The New World. With that film put too much responsibility on the very young girl playing Pocahontas, and it suffers as a result.

Tree of Life looks like it may drown in its own sentimentality, but the trailer at least is beautiful to watch. I'll watch anything by Malick, though.
posted by zardoz at 11:01 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can usually gauge how much I'm going to enjoy something by how much Stephanie Zacharek doesn't. She has always had a weird horror of anything that veers above or below middlebrow.
posted by kyrademon at 11:07 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been putting it off, but I think I'll see this at the Sydney Film Festival next month (along with Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Hobo with a Shotgun).
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:08 PM on May 26, 2011


I
posted by Mblue at 11:14 PM on May 26, 2011


Totally forgot: obligatory Armond White pan.
posted by alexoscar at 11:17 PM on May 26, 2011


the onion's AV club gives it an A :P

the new world almost single-handedly got me into history (that and jmw turner ;)

oh and fwiw! here's Carl Orff - Gassenhauer [1973 "Badlands" Version] (not to be confused with True Romance # You're so cool! - Hans Zimmer)
posted by kliuless at 11:19 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


"... reclusive Zoolander fan..."

Cool story, Terrence!
posted by Corduroy at 11:38 PM on May 26, 2011


Went into this trailer expecting The Fountain-esque pretention, which I have a soft spot for. Was disappointed. If I should happen to go see this what should I actually expect? I don't know Malick well.
posted by solarion at 11:51 PM on May 26, 2011


I liked Badlands and Days of Heaven, but The Thin Red Line is really Malick's masterpiece.

Implying that Days of Heaven is not a masterpiece is heresy. I don't know how you sleep at night.
posted by phaedon at 12:01 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


If I should happen to go see this what should I actually expect? I don't know Malick well.

I haven't seen it yet, but from what I've heard this clip is supposed to be pretty close to what most of the movie is like -- very off-the-cuff, with a lot of jump cuts and fluid camera movements. The dinosaur / space stuff is apparently limited almost entirely to a 15-minute chunk of the film.

If you want to know what you might be in for, I would recommend checking out Seitz video essays linked in the post.
posted by alexoscar at 12:06 AM on May 27, 2011


I didn't like Badlands as much. I thought it was too short and maybe a bit too linear? I'm not sure. Every time a film promises to be dreamlike and surreal it usually doesn't make it. Thin Red Line did, though.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:31 AM on May 27, 2011


I'm excited to see this movie. Even more now that I know Malick is a Zoolander fan, because Zoolander is the magnum opus of dumb 00s movies and if Malick knows that he is a man with taste.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:36 AM on May 27, 2011


For Anthony Lane it "is less like watching a [Michael] Mann movie than like reading Emerson’s 'The Over-Soul.'"
posted by eric1halfb at 12:49 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea of Terence Malick getting all warm and fuzzy when John Voight shouts "That's My Boy! That's my son." kind of makes sense.
posted by fullerine at 1:05 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a kind of double-recursive-pretention-shame spiral with Malick. I love 'The Thin Red Line', 'Badlands' and even the forgotten 'Days of Heaven', but can't really articulate why, and can quite understand why someone wouldn't. They're not films you'd put on to entertain friends in your house, for a start.

But in between the philosophical musings and the bits where the films sit still and let you look at the scenery, there are perfectly ordinary scenes and explicable plots. The actors say normal things and have interesting problems - as sort of islands in the musing. He's far less arty than Peter Greenaway and prettier to watch.
posted by grapefruitzzz at 1:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note to future first-time FPP'ers (myself included): this is how it's done.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:24 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


If someone calls something you do "a gargantuan work of pretension", you must be doing something right, right?
posted by palbo at 3:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I find it fun to read this post as an interior monologue.
posted by steef at 3:49 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it fun to read this post as an interior monologue.

I read this post while looking towards the sun, the light washing out the text and the colors of the surrounding foliage.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:31 AM on May 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


I have a complicated relationship with The Thin Red Line, since I understand what he was going for, but don't think he quite made it. Also, the star-studded cast was really distracting.

But I love, love, love Badlands and Days of Heaven. And maybe I loved them for so long and so hard that The Thin Red Line could never have lived up to his first two films.

I never ended up seeing The New World, but The Tree of Life - I'll be seeing that as soon as humanly possible.
posted by crossoverman at 4:56 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tomorrow, it comes out in the United States.

Not exactly. TomorrowToday, it comes out in New York and LA. The rest of us in lesser cities are stuck with The Hangover 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2 for another few weeks. The New World was never actually released here so I guess that this is better than that.
posted by octothorpe at 5:20 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really want to be a Malick fan, and for Badlands and about three-quarters of The Thin Red Line (parts of which have permanently welded themselves to my long-term memory) I manage and then some, but Days Of Heaven made for a better painting than a movie and I couldn't get into The New World at all. This looks closer to The New World than Badlands, but I'll definitely be seeing it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:23 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The rest of us in lesser cities are stuck with The Hangover 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2.

QFT. My local cinema (mentioned here before) has these movies plus these movies in 3D, plus Fast Five plus Pirates of the Caribbean 4 plus POTC4 in 3D Thor and Bridesmaids and Rio (these last three films may as well have a "1" after the title). What I wouldn't give for some Terence Malick.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:02 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here in France there are huge posters for this (seemingly crap) film, and I had counted on avoiding it because it looked like more Hollywood breeder propaganda. But now I'll have to see it, if only to gawk at a no doubt abortive attempt at imposing imaginary Judeo-christian values on dinosaurs (oh, and on prehistoric lizards, too. Snap!).
posted by Mooseli at 6:11 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mooseli: I haven't seen the film, but I suspect you're going to discover none of the baggage you are carrying into the film actually is part of the film.
posted by hippybear at 6:16 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey hey! Bridesmaids was actually very funny.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:17 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nice post, thank you.
posted by mediareport at 6:17 AM on May 27, 2011


Ebert likes it, so I'll put it on my list.
posted by jquinby at 6:24 AM on May 27, 2011


The rest of us in lesser cities are stuck with The Hangover 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2.

QFT. My local cinema (mentioned here before) has these movies plus these movies in 3D, plus Fast Five plus Pirates of the Caribbean 4 plus POTC4 in 3D Thor and Bridesmaids and Rio (these last three films may as well have a "1" after the title). What I wouldn't give for some Terence Malick.


All of these films are good; some of them extremely good (Fast Five is unexpectedly a great deal of fun). Some Malick would be nice, because art benefits from variety, but this has been a good film season.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:25 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


For Anthony Lane it "is less like watching a [Michael] Mann movie than like reading Emerson’s 'The Over-Soul.'"

Interesting. Reading Little Did I Know, Stanley Cavell's new memoir, earlier this spring, I was delighted to learn that Malick was a student of Cavell's and Cavell's work, in turn, is deeply inflected by Emerson. (Maybe this is something obvious to Malick-philes; it only just occured to me.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:40 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Totally forgot: obligatory Armond White pan.
posted by alexoscar at 7:17 AM on May 27


I was planning to see Tree Of Life anyway, but that decides it: I'm definitely going to see it. Armond White has been my most useful film critic for years now. I cannot recall a single occasion when he hasn't hated a film I love, or loved a film I hated. He's just so reliable.
posted by Decani at 7:03 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


The best art films worth seeing are usually the ones that divide the critics. And you can't push the boundaries of film without somebody calling you pretentious.

Then again, I haven't seen it. The critics' focus on the overuse of voice over doesnt bode well. Really, people, if you're going for the cosmic meaning of life sort of thing, it can't hurt to follow the Stanley model.
posted by fungible at 7:04 AM on May 27, 2011


obligatory link to the breathtaking ending of 'The New World'. i can't wait and we're almost done waiting.
posted by armitage at 7:10 AM on May 27, 2011


Here's why I like Terence Malik (except Thin Red Line which I hated): remember when you were a kid, like 4th grade, and you got to go on the field trip to the planetarium? It was usually end of the school year so May or June so it was hot out and everyone was all giddy on the bus on the way there because the windows were open and you could smell the freedom of summer in the air and the whole trip on the bus there was just magical as you traded baseball cards with your boys in the back and the girls were all giggly and picking on you and the teachers were going nuts trying to contain this force of nature. Then you get to the planetarium and you get off the bus and no one can calm down cuz now you are actually outside in the summer air but when the teachers finally get you into the planetarium it's dark and cool and there is some mysterious, droney music playing and suddenly you are in this deep trance of awe and everyone gets hushed. And then they sit you down in the those chairs in the dark and in the middle is this giant machine all clouded in shadow and sitting still like it holds some possibly horrifying mystery and you've just seen Star Wars for the 5th time and so you are held in awe by the machine and then suddenly everything goes pitch black, the music starts, a deep, deep voice of comforting authority and wonder rumbles from somewhere far above and then slowly the ENTIRE UNIVERSE EXPLODES TO VIEW DIRECTLY OVER YOUR HEAD as that sinister robot in the middle spins to life and you feel immediately connected in a visceral way and deep own into your 9 year old gut with every single sensory experience going on around you and you are awed and humbled and excited at the same time.

That is a Terence Malik film to me.
posted by spicynuts at 7:12 AM on May 27, 2011 [29 favorites]


I love Malick's films, especially Thin Red Line, and will be there opening day (two weeks from now). Very excited.

Fast Five is unexpectedly a great deal of fun.

We either have different definitions of "great deal" or "fun". Fast Five was boring and lacked verisimilitude at every opportunity. The final chase was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen in a movie and seemed to last 30 minutes.
posted by dobbs at 7:29 AM on May 27, 2011


Many critics have forgotten how to approach any film that doesn't fit their established grab bag of references and mindsets (commercial crap film goes here *plop*, pretentious art film that did well at Cannes goes here *plop*) -- they don't expect to be surprised or startled and never are. Malick is one of those perennially misunderstood directors, more so because he's only released five films in a career spanning almost 40 years and is supposedly a recluse (i.e., he doesn't go in for the Hollywood press crawl). Turan at the LA Times could only compare the movie's "plot" to "East of Eden," which I suspect tells people next to nothing about what the film really is like. I haven't seen "The Tree of Life," but I expect that it has a lot to offer the viewer who approaches it with an open heart.

I had counted on avoiding it because it looked like more Hollywood breeder propaganda.

What exactly is "Hollywood breeder propaganda"?
posted by blucevalo at 7:41 AM on May 27, 2011


Ebert likes it, so I'll put it on my list.
He hated Zoolander though, go figure.
posted by fullerine at 7:44 AM on May 27, 2011


Hey guys, it's me, "Terry" Malick!

Now I'm sure that if you're good kids and read the trades like I think, you've probably been wondering about some "wacky" things that you may have heard. It's true, I have a new movie out. And have you ever heard that Sissy Spacek can fit a whole entire baby pumpkin in her mouth? No, not a baby pumpkin. What are those little ones called that you can put on your desk at work? One of those.

But I want to address something specific right now. If you've taken my class (and why haven't you taken my class?) you know that I'm not some "inaccessible" deep-thinker! My favorite Heidegger quote is "But nearer than the nearest and at the same time for ordinary thinking farther than the farthest is nearness itself: the truth of Being." Talk about accessible! (My second favorite is about ice cream, but as it's from his unpublished journals I shouldn't quote it here.) Now I want you to know that maybe if you've been worried about The Tree of Life being some artsy-fart blah blah, you shouldn't worry! It's actually my version of Jurassic Park. Yes!

Let me explain. Back when I was making Pocahontas I started looking around for other "classic" stories to tell. Well what's more classic than dinosaurs? (The answer is nothing!) So that's what this is.

Anyway so if you're worried about maybe some "bad reviews" that you've seen where people were "scared" or "confused" just remember what it was like when you went to see Jurassic Park the first time. You probably didn't even know who Jeff Goldblum was! But Jeff's a crack up. For my movie I got Brad Pitt, who is pretty good too! He's sort of my version of a T-rex. Ha ha! But let me remind you that these reviews are coming from Cannes. That's where they gave a prize to Paris Texas. That movie was boring. Now I got a prize! My movie is fun.

In conclusion, France is a funny place. I'm really enjoying the sunshine today. And omigod you guys, look at this crazy bug!

Sincerely,

"Doctor" Terence Malick
posted by shakespeherian at 7:53 AM on May 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


What exactly is "Hollywood breeder propaganda"?

According to the link in the comment which first contained that phrase, Juno.
posted by hippybear at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2011


What exactly is "Hollywood breeder propaganda"?

An excellent name for a debut album.
posted by tzikeh at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


An excellent name for a debut album.

I'm thinking it's probably a cover album:

You Light Up My Life
Like A Virgin
I Wanna Hold Your Hand

You get the idea...
posted by hippybear at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2011


If someone calls something you do "a gargantuan work of pretension", you must be doing something right, right?

No, what you're doing could merely be huge, bad, and a general waste of the money that went into making it.

Just 'cause haters gonna hate doesn't make them automatically wrong, or your efforts automatically worthwhile.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:18 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fast Five is unexpectedly a great deal of fun

I dunno, I totally expected Vin Diesel and THE ROCK to fight like Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, and my expectation was fulfilled in every way!
posted by adamdschneider at 8:29 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever the worth of the movie, you have to pay respect to his ability to get something this uncommercial made in the first place.
posted by Trurl at 9:27 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just 'cause haters gonna hate doesn't make them automatically wrong, or your efforts automatically worthwhile.


The way I've heard some people talk about this movie (which I myself am very much looking forward to) you have to wonder if there is any way at all Mallick could turn in anything at all that they wouldnt break out the Chest of Superlatives for. A predisposition to like it, you can almost sense them anticipating what wonderful things they will be able to say about it...ya know...once they've actually seen the thing.

That stuff makes me uncomfortable. It leads to people bending over backwards to find ways to praise something they want to love more than they might actually end up loving simply because they had planned to love it so ardently. (See also The Eyes Wide Shut Debacle, July '99, The Fountain Fiasco, Nov '06)

(cue any number of Eyes Wide Shut defenders, as Im sure they will pop up now)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:51 AM on May 27, 2011


Whatever the worth of the movie, you have to pay respect to his ability to get something this uncommercial made in the first place.


That is true.
But what people tend to confuse is praising the experiment and praising the result.
Often they are two very different things.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2011


(cue any number of Eyes Wide Shut defenders, as Im sure they will pop up now)

Eyes Wide Shut is incredible and awesome and good, but I'm not really interested in getting into a fight about it. I'm okay with you disliking it.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


That stuff makes me uncomfortable. It leads to people bending over backwards to find ways to praise something they want to love more than they might actually end up loving simply because they had planned to love it so ardently.

So is it better just to say "Meh" and give up and expect that every movie that comes out of Hollywood or anywhere else is just going to be another "Hot Tub Time Machine" or "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" or "All about Steve"?
posted by blucevalo at 10:03 AM on May 27, 2011


So is it better just to say "Meh" and give up and expect that every movie that comes out of Hollywood or anywhere else is just going to be another "Hot Tub Time Machine" or "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" or "All about Steve"?


Certainly not. But that's also a false choice to have to make.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2011


Eyes Wide Shut is incredible and awesome and good, but I'm not really interested in getting into a fight about it. I'm okay with you disliking it.

Just as long as we understand that Senor Cardgage is not okay with you liking it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:29 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


No. I never said anything about EWS being objectively bad and I have no quarrel with anyone genuinely liking it.

But it is (to me) a very good example of the momentum of enthusiasm and a sacred cow (and recnetly deceased) director and all the mystique that that implies causing people to invest themselves so much in the idea of liking a film that they decide well beforehand that they simply must.
I saw a LOT of people go from praising that film as a brilliant achievement in the summer of 99 to faint praise once it hit video to ultimately shrugging it off as a worthy effort that didnt really gel overall.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:36 AM on May 27, 2011


I can never love somebody who doesn't see how great Eyes Wide Shut is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2011


I saw a LOT of people go from praising that film as a brilliant achievement in the summer of 99 to faint praise once it hit video to ultimately shrugging it off as a worthy effort that didnt really gel overall.

I think a lot of that move was because people got the idea in their head that Kubrick was going to make a thinky porn film, the way he made a thinky sci-fi film and a thinky war film(s). Eyes Wide Shut obviously was not that at all so it was sort of ignoring people's expectations.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So it's some kind of Fight Club re-imagining?

Actually, I think I need to get myself acquainted with the works of Mr. Malick. If the film lives up to the trailer, it will be a treat to simply see, plot and performance aside. Which isn't to say that those appear to be lacking in any way.
posted by owtytrof at 10:47 AM on May 27, 2011


I think a lot of that move was because people got the idea in their head that Kubrick was going to make a thinky porn film, the way he made a thinky sci-fi film and a thinky war film(s). Eyes Wide Shut obviously was not that at all so it was sort of ignoring people's expectations.


Then the chain of critique I described should have flowed in reverse.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2011


who doesn't see how great Eyes Wide Shut is

but better than after hours or quick change!? :P
posted by kliuless at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2011


I loved the Fountain and am now desperate to know what Aronofsky thought of Zoolander.

What?! Oh I know, maybe it's not the best metric to use for recognising genius, but how about we see where it takes us.
posted by fullerine at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


But it is (to me) a very good example of the momentum of enthusiasm and a sacred cow (and recnetly deceased) director and all the mystique that that implies causing people to invest themselves so much in the idea of liking a film that they decide well beforehand that they simply must.
I saw a LOT of people go from praising that film as a brilliant achievement in the summer of 99 to faint praise once it hit video to ultimately shrugging it off as a worthy effort that didnt really gel overall.


You are on the right road, but facing the wrong direction. Because the irascible and publicity-shy Kubrick had conveniently died before it was released and because the thing had been in production for so long, keeping home-run-slugger Tom Cruise tied up for three years, Warner Bros. produced an extraordinary marketing campaign for it: all "the last work of the master filmmaker" and "sex sex sex" and "Kubrick films an orgy" and "Cruise and Kidman totally do it onscreen." Many reviewers were eager to demonstrate that they were not going to be taken in by all the hype, thank you. and were determined to use their built-in column inches to show their world-weariness. Thus a thousand negative reviews are born.

Consider Andrew Sarris in the New York Observer:

Perhaps if Eyes Wide Shut just popped up out of the blue without all the infernal hype and infomercials I might have appreciated it more for its uncommon virtues


What exactly was keeping Sarris from ignoring the infernal hype? Is he reviewing films or interviews on Entertainment Tonight?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was reading Kurt Loder's review of this last night. I'm looking forward to it, but like many I'll have to be patient.
posted by homunculus at 12:37 PM on May 27, 2011


Thank you spicynuts, that was beautiful. Flagged for fantastic.
posted by marsha56 at 2:35 PM on May 27, 2011


Saw it today in NYC. I'd say Terry's having some trouble surpassing The Thin Red Line. He should really stick to source material. I was blown away by this movie as I watched it, but the level to which it's indebted to 2001 and other films ultimately cheapens it. I must say, it's hyper-religious too.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:17 AM on June 1, 2011


Meh.
posted by yoHighness at 2:00 AM on June 1, 2011


I must say, it's hyper-religious too.

I'm the most anti-religious person I know and get called a religious bigot often. I loved the film and did not find it "religious" in the slightest. Spiritual, yes, but that's not the same thing.
posted by dobbs at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2011


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