Cannes Buzz: Terrence Malick's Tree of Life

Cannes Buzz: Terrence Malick's Tree of Life

May 16, 2011

Perhaps the most buzzed-about film premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this year is Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Not only does the film star Hollywood hot shots like Brad Pitt and Sean Penn -- and come from a filmmaker known for taking long breaks between films (Malick's previous tale, The New World, hit theaters in 2005) -- but it's also been shrouded in a great deal of mystery. We knew it had something to do with a family in the 1950s, and somehow there were dinosaurs involved, but that was about it. Fox Searchlight picked up The Tree of Life a few months back, and kept a pretty tight lid on it all the way up to its premiere at the festival earlier today. The Tree of Life goes into limited release on May 27th, and it screens for a lot more press around the country later today (which is when we're seeing it), so stay tuned for more reactions in the coming hours and days. But for now, here are some quotes from the first set of mixed reviews out of Cannes.

-- "Brandishing an ambition it’s likely no film, including this one, could entirely fulfill, The Tree of Life is nonetheless a singular work, an impressionistic metaphysical inquiry into mankind’s place in the grand scheme of things that releases waves of insights amidst its narrative imprecisions. This fifth feature in Terrence Malick’s eccentric four-decade career is a beauteous creation that ponders the imponderables, asks the questions that religious and thoughtful people have posed for millennia and provokes expansive philosophical musings along with intense personal introspection." -- The Hollywood Reporter

-- "The sun will set tonight and the great wait for and mystery surrounding Malick’s film will be over. But bursting with ideas, images, sounds and a deep well of spirituality rarely ever tackled in either independent or mainstream cinema, Malick’s film is still an event. With “The Tree Of Life” the director has once again created a cinematic experience that is uniquely his own, often powerful and mesmerizing, at times overreaching and overbearing, but never forgettable. It’s another bold stroke from one of cinema’s most original voices, so put aside the hype aside, and let “The Tree Of Life” take root." -- The Playlist

-- "It's brilliant. Let's get that out of the way. If you like director Terrence Malick, rest assured his new film fits in snugly alongside Badlands, Days Of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World. It features extensive voice-overs musing on the nature of life, stunning images that convey a wealth of emotion and a surprisingly detailed storyline conveyed almost entirely without conventional narrative." -- The Huffington Post

-- "There’s a certain awesome delight to be had from giving oneself over to all this narrative ambition and visual bravado, this swirl of desire and yearning, bumping up against the limits of translation on the part of so interesting an artist. But like an inspiring sermon or a meditation session that goes off on too many tangents, The Tree of Life leaves this seeker less serene than she had prayed she would be." -- Entertainment Weekly

-- " Pitt, Chastaine and McCracken’s performances are great, and the score is exceptional. And of course, the aesthetic merits of the film could never have been in doubt, and don’t disappoint." -- Film School Rejects

-- "The Tree of Life is a gargantuan work of pretension and cleverly concealed self-absorption, featuring some absolutely gorgeous photography (courtesy of Emmanuel Lubezski, who also shot The New World). Malick does care about craftsmanship: He’s clearly poured thought and care into the images and the editing, and the sections of the film in which characters are actually allowed to interact — instead of just issuing forth in ponderous voice-overs as images of cosmic tadpoles and Ansel Adams-style calendar shots fill the screen — manage some degree of dramatic intensity." - Movieline

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