Saturday, June 4, 2011

Terrence Malick: A Story From Before We Can Remember (The Tree of Life)

Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken Fox Searchlight Pictures The Tree of Life

Every so often a film comes along so unique that it polarizes audiences, who are either overjoyed at what has swept over them or angered at the unexpected, drawing forth thoughts and feelings that they are uncomfortale with. American master Terrence Malick has crafted just such a work with his miraculous Tree of Life.

An epic adventure of the ethereal, Tree evokes so many emotions and ideas as to overwhelm its viewers with the very force of existence. Malick bravely, ingeniously forges his own footpath, redefining theme and image with a radical experiment in narrative. To delineate its "plot" is to diverge from the incomparable joy of experiencing it. Suffice to say that it concerns a man's life, memories of a semi-idyllic Southern childhood, fathers, mothers, brothers, morals, masculinity, femininity,middle-age,love,loss,sorrow,evolution,nature,God and Heaven. It is life and cinema and concerns each and every one of us.

Emmanuel Lubezki's images are some of the richest and most beautiful you will ever see, while remaining true to Malick's style, the camera tracking dreamlike, the colors saturated with wonder. The experience of this picture brought to mind 2001 in that it is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Like Kubrick, you recognize Malick instantly, with one frame. He is that kind of artist.

Alexandre Desplat's score is unearthly and potent, matching note for note the director's expression of our life span and beyond. Every element comes together as it should to make this an unqualified triumph.

The Tree of Life is a poem, a prayer, an oath, a diary, a sketch pad, a mirror. With his fifth feature in almost 40 years, Malick clarifies why he is the most important living American auteur. The Tree of Life is an awakening.

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