Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tree of Life review


The Tree of Life is such an accomplishment of artistic vision that it's hard for me not to want to embrace it completely because of how much Terrence Malick accomplished with this film. And yet, there is a part of me that feels hesitant to do that because I feel like I was thrown into an eccentric artist's mind and then was spit out and now I have to attempt to tell people what I saw. I don't know what it is I saw exactly, I don't really know what to make of The Tree of Life as a whole, but goddamn once The Tree of Life finds its groove and you start to settle into the movie, it's hard not to be blown away.

First of all, this is a film the demands to be seen on the big screen. Hopefully, watching it on blu-ray with a large tv screen will do it justice. But, you know, the fact that Malick had the balls to go as far and as deep as he did in this film makes me want to applaud him. It's not a perfect film, only because there is no way this film could've been perfect with the way Malick approached it. It's so all over the place and it's meant to be as it's a collection of memories and visions and thoughts and philosophizing. That can be a bit much for people and believe me it was a bit much for me at times. The worst thing you can do when watching The Tree of Life is trying to make sense of it all as you're watching it. The best thing to do is wait until the end and then try to think about it. I did a bit of both.

But let me tell you why this film must be lauded. Simply put, from the time the film shows you the creation of the universe to the moment in which it stops being about young Jack O'Brien, his two brothers, and his parents... The Tree of Life was quite literally the most perfect, masterful film I had ever seen. From those two points, I was just sitting in my seat being blown away by how minute and careful Terrence Malick was in fitting in every little detail and just the clarity of the vision (with the cinematography and the artistic vision itself) was so amazing. The whole film is a cinefile's wet dream, but for about an hour and 45 minutes, this film was firing at all cylinders and contains some of the greatest scenes Terrence Malick had ever been a part of.

You think that was an overuse of hyperbole? Bullshit. If you've watched enough films for over a 20 year period, you start to decipher among the bad, the good, the great, and the perfect. Watching the montage of little Jack from an infant to an adolescent re-confirmed my belief in filmmaking as a superior form of art. That the film can stir so many different emotions while being so simple in its depiction of childhood is just brilliant to me.

But the beginning and the end of the film is a bit of a hodgepodge and the scenes with Sean Penn just don't really carry any emotional weight at all. They make sense in a literal way since the film is basically told from within his mind, but I don't think it would've hurt the film if we knew just a little bit more about Jack as a grown up and how his brother's death affected him (oh yeah you find out a brother of his dies early on in the film, but I'm not gonna explain the plot to you, the plot doesn't really matter at all).

At this point, I've really enjoyed all five Terrence Malick films and this one seems to be his most personal and emotional. I just wish he were willing to be even more personal and emotional with us to help us make at least some sense of what it all means to him. But then again, that's kind of what is so appealing about a guy like Terrence Malick. Because we have so little insight of the man, we can only really begin to understand him by watching his films. And as with every other Terrence Malick film, its true beauty is revealed after multiple viewings. At this point, The Tree of Life remains a nearly perfect film about a man trying to come to terms with his past and his place in time. There is no doubt Malick knew exactly what he was doing with the editing style of the film and it's a film that begs for a proper dissection and discussion after multiple viewings. This is a very rewarding film for those who are willing to be patient with it and for people who are fans of Malick's other films, you will be in for a treat.

The Tree of Life is currently available on Blu-Ray/DVD, I managed to see it at a special screening at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema a few days ago.

Rating: 9.5/10

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