Monday, August 1, 2011
Um, It's A Art Picture
One and a half stars
‘Tree of Life’, the new film by Terrence Malick, I really didn’t get. I hate to bash an art film, but at the very least it’s trying to do something different than the usual barrage of trash that commercial vendors and mainstream media throw at us. Though, this film is full of what the fudge moments. A montage of the earth being created, including a computer animated dinosaur, which I had to ask: what was that doing in this picture? The scene goes on for almost ten minutes. When they cut to a scene of the mother in a glass casket in the woods, I thought to myself, this film is pretension city. The father (Brad Pitt), one moment is a good guy and then the next moment is an awful jerk. One minute he’s hugging his kids, than he’s yelling at them to call him father instead of dad? Or how about the constant moments of the film with the camera constantly pulling in for close ups, or the constant moments set to music. The film never has any scenes of just dialogue. I don’t like the way the film is constructed. Was it really necessary to have a scene with a kid dying in the pool? Maybe I just don’t get art films, but on the contrary, I’ve written a lot of pieces about art films, and I love good cinema as opposed to just good movies at the mainstream theater. I’ve given a lot of thumbs up to films that are art films, and off the map, films like this one, that have weird construction, somewhat artsy feel that try to do something different. I like a lot of films where nothing happens for long stretches of time. I think there’s something to the art house picture that’s great. Though, this film broke a lot of rules of films I usually give a good review to a film that does that. Though, this one I just didn’t get. What was so good about it?
First of all, the film needs to have either a story or characters I could care about. By the end of this film, I kind of had a hard time caring about any of the characters. Brad Pitt’s character is a jerk. The mother (Jessica Chastain) is kind of useless. The kids are realistic kids, but I had a hard time caring about them. I think a movie fails if you have a hard time caring about kids. By the way, as my companion who saw this movie pointed out, the mother had a tattoo on her foot. This film takes place in what? The 1950’s? Who had a tattoo in the 50s? Anyway, this film throws a lot of stuff at us about biblical meanings and religion. The story doesn’t really lend itself enough to religion in the first place. But can you really call this a story? Then there’s a problem of narration. There’s more than one narration but none of them are linear. The narrations come in small little voices. The problem is that none of the narration, I think, makes any sense. One of the kid’s narrations asks God to kill his father. His father is kind of a jerk, but not bad enough for a kid to ask God to kill him. Then again, do I really want to hear a kid ask God to kill their father in the first place? No. Not really.
Something that could be pointed out from this experiment, and learned is the following. First of all, escapism is important. That’s one of the prime reasons we go to the movies. This is a piece of cinema, not just another movie. So, if you are going to tell a story that’s a bit harder around the edges, you still need to tell it like a story instead of being all over the place. I started to wonder as I watched this picture if they told this story straight, would it have been a better picture? I guess I will never know, but this film is a prime example of why people hate art pictures. It’s very pretentious, and it reminded me of a line from a Woody Allen film about how some artists pass off their pain as art. I think this film is an example of this. I mean, yes, using film to try to figure out where we are in the universe is important and can be done well, but this film knocks you over the head with that. It yells ‘art picture’. I have to give it some credit. It’s beautifully shot. It makes an honest attempt to capture the surreal nature of childhood, but I’m sorry this film just didn’t click with me. I think a film like this can be thought provoking, and it’s good to ask questions about the universe, but I didn’t like the way this film went about it.
I’m sure a lot of people will say I didn’t get this film. They will also say that it takes a certain kind of viewer to view this film. I would agree with that. I often am that kind of viewer. I like many off beat films. It’s a certain kind of offbeat I like. I like films that play with the traditional feel of a film. I can’t recommend this film. I found it off putting, and at times, rather creepy, to be honest. I don’t want a montage of the creation of the earth. I don’t want narrations of child asking God to kill their father. I totally didn’t click with this film. That happens, sometimes. I’m sure there are people who will find this film life affirming. I didn’t. I found it to be pretentious and at times, boring. I have to be honest. I left the theater and the first question I asked was “What did I just watch for two hours?”