Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tree Of Life

To save your money, rather then going to see Terrence Malick's new sci-fi/fantasy/drama epic just stick on National Geographic, play some beautiful classic music,  place a lava lamp beside your television  and ponder the wonders of the universe and life. For probably thirty minutes I watched Sean Penn and the universe flirting with each other through random images with no plot. Finally the childhood of Jack (Sean Penn's character when eleven years old: played very well by Hunter McCracken) is portrayed on screen and the film improves. 

Although there is no real plot or storyline, on the surface anyway, Tree Of Life does convey a fascinating document of Jacks upbringing and his relationship with his strict father (Brad Pitt) and gentle mother (Jessica Chastain). There are many situations and emotions that Jack finds himself in or expressing that the audience can relate to such as family conflict, peer pressure and guilt. Brad Pitt is excellent as the head of the household, who tries to teach his three sons how to fight, work ethic and becoming strong, ruthless men in order to succeed and survive in life. The boys are terrified of him and his short temper...but its set in 1950s middle class America so it was the style at the time.

Jack like all of us attempts to understand the reason of being, life, death and his place in the universe, but we all know where this is going. Its a mystery, but lets enjoy the extraordinary beauty and power of life and the universe...fucking blah blah blah.  Its true that Malick does relate to the audience by evoking thoughts of existence, God and the afterlife, but personally those thoughts frighten me and I turn to cinema or television to escape from those daunting ideas. People might say "aww but you see this is visual cinema". Yeah, Hitchcock was the master of visual cinema and hated continuous dialogue, but his films were more challenging to make because he used simple visuals to drive the story forward, where Malick has just mashed together a bunch of extraordinarily complex images to manipulate the audience into bewilderment: "oh wow doesn't that look nice...wonder what its all about hey?" Any nerd can post that on Youtube. At least when Hitchcock manipulated the audience it was fun, creative and had a classic story with a beginning, middle and end.

The film is shot beautifully with striking images, but without any true story. Blade Runner, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and Malick's own Badlands  were all visually stunning, but had a great narrative and interesting characters. It  also seems like Malik couldn't even decide, which random beautiful image to end the film with so went with a bridge and finally the credits came up. In Cannes they booed, in New York they sighed...this is no masterpiece...deadly trailer though.

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