Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Toscanini once recorded a piece sixty five times. You know what he said when he finished? "It could be better." Think about it": Tree of Life

Film Foray Cavalcade no. Treinta y Cuatro: Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Terrence Malick is one of those directors that you either love or hate. My first exposure to his work was The Thin Red Line, I bought a VHS copy of it (since I enjoy War movies almost as much as westerns) and made it nearly half way through it. It was for lack of a better word... Dull (Although, I intend to give film another shot). This kept me away from his other films (I will check them out eventually) until The New World, while not a great film, it was all kinds of gorgeous and the acting was top-notch. Then I rented The Tree of Life as I am on the mend from the removal of a wisdom tooth. This film was a wise choice because for nearly two and a half hours, I completely forgot about the manageable pain in me jaw.

The Tree of Life from a narrative perspective follows the memories of Jack (Sean Penn) as he looks back on the lessons of his parents that have led him into middle age. There was his quiet mother (Jessica Chastain) who was the spiritual center and his firm father, Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt). The reminiscences of Jack's childhood is intermingled with the growth of the universe to its own eventual destruction. To boil it down to its central element, The Tree of Life is the story of just that, it is the story of life and how to a lesser extent how minuscule we all are within that story.

The Tree of Life is not like any other film I have seen in recent memory. It is not a conventional film by any means, all of the acting and imagery take a backseat to Alexandre Desplat's score which was monumental. The narrative decisions made by Malick as screenwriter/ director and by extension the editing team (there were four of them) could certainly be off putting to the average viewer. It does not follow a linear storyline and for some would consider the universe footage to be superfluous. I tend to disagree, I liked all of it... Namely, it highlighted the notions rolling about in my noodle about my own mortality and the very small place I hold in this world.

Regardless of one's personal opinion on either Malick as a filmmaker or The Tree of Life as a film, it is one of the most gorgeous pieces of cinema that mine eyes have every seen. If Emmanuel Lubezki is not nominated for best cinematography than the various awards committees are blind! This film is beautiful and when coupled with Desplat's score, you have have a powerful combination. It kind is a shame that the studio decided to release this film in Spring as it would fit very well with the films bidding for an Oscar. As it stands, The Tree of Life is a unique film that is rarely seen from American filmmakers and it is hard to say if anyone other than Malick would take the risk to make a film of this magnitude.

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