Monday, May 16, 2011

Cannes Review Round-up: "The Tree of Life"

Arguably the most anticipated title at this year's auteur-filled Cannes line-up, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life finally received its official premiere. Ever since that stunning trailer was released in December, this has been at the top of my list not just for the summer, but for the whole year. I may not be a complete Malick fan (I love Badlands and The Thin Red Line, but feel pretty 'meh' towards Days of Heaven and The New World), but I certainly respect him as a film maker, and can't wait to see what The Tree of Life holds in store (only two more weeks!). However, Malick's last two films (Line and The New World) have seen the director immerse himself more in his signature style, provoking more divided reactions to his films. If Cannes is any indication, The Tree of Life continues, rather than reverses, this trend:

Rope of Silicon - Brad Brevet: (B) "Just as this film to 40 years took make, it may be another 40 years before I'm ever able to come to a final conclusion on what it entirely means to me."

The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy: (N/A) "But there are great, heady things here, both obvious and evanescent, more than enough to qualify this as an exceptional and major film." "Emmanuel Lubezki outdoes himself with cinematography of almost unimaginable crispness and luminosity."

Movie Line - Stephanie Zacharek: (N/A) "...strong visuals don't necessarily equal strong visual storytelling. If Malick could tell a story mostly with pictures - and faces - why would he need so many voice-overs?"

The Guardian - Peter Bradshaw: (5/5 stars) "This film is not for everyone, and I will admit I am agnostic about the final sequence..." "...this is visionary cinema on an unashamedly huge scale: cinema that's thinking big."

The Wrap - Sasha Stone: (N/A) "The Tree of Life is saturated with beauty, inside and out."

Indie Wire - Eric Kohn: (A-) "If Lubezki treats his job like a painter, Malick uses his magic to make the artwork come to life."

The Playlist - Kevin Jagernauth: (B) "...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."

Film School Rejects - Simon Gallagher: (C) "Aiming for an experience is one thing, but presenting an intentionally obtuse, impenetrable thing like this is something else entirely."

The Telegraph - Sukhdev Sandhu: (2/4 stars) "Brad Pitt gives the strongest performance of his career, but The Tree of Life is by far the weakest film Terrence Malick has ever made." - Guy Lodge: (3/4 stars) "His most open-armed and structurally undisciplined film to date, it might yet prove his least rewarding."

Variety - Justin Chang: (N/A) "Few American filmmakers are as alive to the splendor of the natural world as Terrence Malick, but even by his standards, The Tree of Life represents something extraordinary."

Additional Comments: Some critics aren't entirely sold on the ending, and feel that it's a bit too literal considering what comes before. Brad Pitt receives almost unanimous praise for his performance, with solid mentions for Jessica Chastain and young actor Hunter McCracken. Even among mixed or negative reviews, critics feel that The Tree of Life is the sort of movie that needs to be seen, if only to determine which side of the debate you fall on.

Cannes Verdict: Undeniably beautiful and complex, and filled with brilliant filmmaking, The Tree of Life is likely to inspire highly divisive reactions, despite its status as a must-see.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I can't wait for this myself!