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Thursday, July 14, 2011

303. The Tree Of LIfe


    Last week, after I had laid into Jean Luc Godard's latest movie, someone tweeted that I should "just relax, Godard's films are there to be studied.''
    I replied that the last time I studied anything seriously was in 1984 and I didn't much like doing it then.
    It is my own personal sadness that I am not an academic. Thus, I am not a boffin when it comes to movies, simply a devourer.
    It's not that I don't like being taught stuff. Documentaries are probably my favourite form of film. But, let's be honest, there's no effort in being told facts or watching them unfold in front of your eyes. That doesn't require study.
    But it's a different matter working out what a director is trying to say when he goes off on a self-indulgent celluloid meander.
    I feared the worst for The Tree Of Life when I heard a critic extolling its virtues and then admitting: "but, of course, it makes no sense.''
    Oh great, I thought, I can't wait.
    Meanwhile, it has an impressive 7.9 rating on imdb including one 10/10 review which enlighted me.
    It claimed I would get the most out of the film if I was looking for "relax through relief, rather than relief through relax.''
    Now you are probably getting an idea who is going to like this.
    So let me tell you what is good about Terrence Malick's much-awaited film for your average punter, like me.
    Number one, there is within it quite a decent story line about growing up and, particularly, the relationship between fathers and sons.
    The truth is we all criticise our dads and most of us end up just like them.
    Malick takes a look at growing up in the 1950s and a subsequent family death and, as far as I could understand it, places it within the context of the universe.
    The story is mainly seen through a child's eyes and the performances of the boy (Hunter McCracken) and his father (Brad Pitt) are laudable.
    Also on the plus side, every single shot in the whole film is meticulous. The clarity is amzing and it feels like the audience is constantly looking up (ie through the eyes of a child).
    And, I guess I could have tolerated Malick taking us on this incredible journey through the universe, across volcanoes and under water, to make his point about man's relationship with nature (the dinosaurs really were a step too far).
    But, really, did it all have to go on for so long?
    It reminded me a little too much of another film which went over my head: 2011  Space Odyssey.
    I reckon it's because I just don't find much fun in trying to read the mind of someone I don't know to work out what the movie is all about. I'm rubbish enough at reading Mrs W's mind!
    I am a man of simple pleasures. I recognise great actors (in this instance, Pitt and, all too briefly Sean Penn) but most of this movie just made me scratch my head like much modern art does in a gallery.
    Basically, I admit to being the dunce in the class and say, for the large part, I just didn't get it, despite its prettiness.
    And thus, I can't muster up more than 5/10.
    I await the catcalls.

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303. The Tree Of LIfe


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