Terrence Malick has made five films in thirty-eight years. All of his films are recognized critically as masterpieces. Keeping with that tradition, his most recent film The Tree of Life won top honors at the Cannes film festival last month. Speaking about the film, head of the Cannes jury Robert DeNiro said, “It had the size, the importance, the intention, whatever you want to call it, that seemed to fit the prize.” DeNiro’s offhand comment is invaluable to deciphering how this film has steadily risen, without much apparent consideration, to a respectable position within the pantheon of contemporary American filmmaking.
The movie is basically the story of Malick’s Texan youth in the 1950s, intercut with glossy meditations on the history of life on Earth. Sean Penn, playing the older version of the young boy we see constantly intimidated by his father (Brad Pitt), wanders awed and aimlessly through a gleaming present-day metropolis. There is a quiet voiceover, often whispered, presumably because only serious things are whispered. As with any of Malick’s films, bizarre moments are captured with a grace that makes them undeniably appealing. In one scene a band of young, directionless boys destructively wander the hinterlands of their hometown; a father intensely urges his son to hit him as the camera floats gently before their faces; children frolic in clouds of hazardous DDT.
What sets these sequences apart from the rest of the film is their total honesty. They don’t defer to clichéd images that stink of Planet Earth—they instead capture the weirdness of being young, the inanities of fatherhood, strange moments that are genuinely past. Even if these aren’t real memories, they’re still something known, something felt, something represented.
However, the elements of the film that haves garnered most praise, confusion, and appreciation are the sequences concerning the origins of life. (more…)
For those of us who paid even marginal attention to this years Cannes film festival, there were two non-surprises that were somehow engineered to be received as stunners. First, and probably less surprising, was the banning of Lars von Trier, the famously badgerlike Dane; second was the victory of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life over the other highfalutin shoo-ins from other directors who have become Cannes mainstays. Both directors came out on top–though for drastically different reasons. (more…)
by Adam Hirsch
There are always films that fall through the proverbial cracks in every filmmaker’s viewing library, well-known and applauded films that we have claimed to have seen but actually have on our I’ll-eventually-sit-down-and-watch-it list. We all have these lists, myself as much as anyone.
Which is why last night, thanks in part to the wonderful advent of Netflix, I decided to start crossing a few films off the list with weekly double features of missed works. It certainly didn’t hurt that my girlfriend was out of town and I could unapologetically choose which films to watch.
I’m approaching these posts as impressions more than appraisals. I’m not going to write up synopses or review the filmmaking. The films that I’m going to watch are classics that have just passed me by — I’m choosing the ones I’ve heard are magnificent, and it follows that they are going to deliver on the promise. For this first week’s double feature, I chose to kick things off with a triple feature: Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.
by Jake Teresi
After a record-setting year at the box office, what can we expect in 2010? More of the same. Don’t expect Hollywood to surprise us when things are going so well. Expect more 3D, more talking CGI animals, more lame comedies/soft dramas starring Sandra Bullock.
Not that I’m cynical. (more…)