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Stephen Perera

'The Tree of Life' article feat. Lubezki August 2011

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So this was the first time I saw a Terrence Mallick film (years ago when I first saw it) in that 'style' he's developed - love it or hate it - over the past films he's done (Song to song, To the wonder etc.

I'd like to share this article on American Photographer as it really speaks to me as a 'one man band' trying to work mainly with natural light, minimal kit on locations, shooting film of course and shooting at the time of day I have to, not necessarily want to and all those other random things and variables you have to deal with......

https://theasc.com/ac_magazine/August2011/TheTreeofLife/page3.html#

It really is a good, inspiring read for people like me......

 

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Tis inspiriting, but at the same time, the style is amateurish sadly. It appears as if he just shoots a bunch of stuff and figures it out later. That process is kinda what college kids do 😛

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7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Tis inspiriting, but at the same time, the style is amateurish sadly. It appears as if he just shoots a bunch of stuff and figures it out later. That process is kinda what college kids do 😛

Tyler, I think you're just having a Tyler moment. Mallick is worthy of some study, even if we don't agree with him, or sympathise with all of his philosophic or religious premises. I do (enjoy and study) even though I don't share his religeosity. Why could he not be more like Aronofsky, mining the core spiritual values without muddying the surface with religeosity.....?

On the one hand, we have an established process where we previsualize and plan, then bend everything to try to execute that.

On the other hand , one might, after a lifetime of consolidating some IQ within the medium, go exploring within the production process, tying to find, or liberate, from it's seed state.... What could we observe.....vs... how could we capture the thing that best describes or fits our preconception...

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The movie is pure poetry, it's not particularly narrative in any sort of classical sense. And that's OK.

The thing about improvisation is that either it works or it doesn't. For me, it worked in "Tree of Life", I think because it tapped into Malick's own memories of being a child. It felt honest. The dinosaur stuff didn't really fit though.

"To the Wonder" didn't work for me because for all of Malick's complaints about "Hollywood" thinking, he made a movie about a working class guy torn between two women and he made it into a beauty pageant of Hollywood actors.  Handsome guy can't decide which knockout beauty to sleep with, a universal problem.  And the "twirling girl in the field at sunset" has become a totally worn-out cliche of a "free spirit".

And "Knight of Cups" was even worse, the spiritual quest of a Hollywood writer who sleeps with super models. It's like those movies about how rich people who have it all get sad like the rest of us. Someone please play the world's smallest violin.

But "Tree of Life" is a great movie, one of the best of the decade.  "Hidden Life" is a decent movie, if too long -- It's hard to hold interest in a 3 hour movie about a guy who's a moral hero because of his inaction.  And it takes a hour of screen time before he decides not to do something. But it does make you think about the cost of moral courage and what you would do in his situation.  Both this movie and "JoJo Rabbit" are about how ordinary people react in a time of rising nationalism -- do they go along with their neighbors? Do they make a stand even if it places their family at risk? It's interesting that right now so many filmmakers are revisiting the time of the rise of fascism in WW2 as so many countries are electing far right parties and strong-man dictators.

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I need something cohesive story wise to keep me engaged. I personally look at "art" and "poetry" films as lazy filmmaking really. It's super easy to grab a bunch of footage that has no story and throw some VO under it and call it "art".

To me, perfection is when an art film has a great story that keeps you engaged and entertained. There are so few of those films around however, they seem to be TOO on the art side or TOO mainstream. It's finding that happy balance which is the difficult part and honestly, I haven't much cared for anything Malick has made, even his popcorn fodder films. All I see with his last few film lazy filmmaking; "Lets go out and shoot a bunch of pretty stuff and figure it out in post". That's my opinion, but I'm sure it resonates with many people. 

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So if poetry films are lazy filmmaking, poems are lazy writing? That's a very limited view of the potential for art.

Sure a film with a great story is, well, great. But that's one type of film and to call all other types "lazy" is unfair.  It's like saying that classical music is great but jazz is "lazy" because it relies more on improvisation rather than composition.

And if you look at something really difficult to make like "The Thin Red Line", it's not the sort of movie that anyone who is lazy would undertake. Same goes for "The New World".

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Well, your analogy is interesting because Jazz requires quite a bit of skill actually. It also creates more than just beautiful music, but it's extremely entertaining music, which is why it was such a popular form of music. 

Poetry is actually very much like jazz. It requires a grasp of not just language, but social themes that allude most people. A good poem however, is one that resonates with the reader, that is as smooth as a glass of port and as crisp as the best jazz. 

With both Jazz and Poetry, it can get pretty boring fast. Imagine sitting at a jazz concert for 178 minutes, with no break, listening to the same group. Heck, imagine going to a poetry reading and finding out it's one poet, reading from his 100+ page singular poem for 178 minutes straight. Anything that abstract can get pretty hard to absorb after a while, it actually turns the audience off in a lot of ways. Most Jazz concerts are 80 minutes (two 40 minute sets) and most poetry readings are with dozens of people telling various stories. 

My problem is that abstract art is good in short doses, I actually have seen some outstanding <5 minute art films. Where the director storyboards every single frame, where everything is planned, there is a crew, there are actors and sets, props and a script. Where people get on set and they shoot it just like a normal feature, but the result is a work of serious abstraction. 

Then you have Terrance Malick's most recent films (not referring to Thin Red Line or his other "main stream" films), which are basically completely adlib scenes, where the director literally hands the actors an idea and they roll with it. The camera just runs for the entire scene and they may do the same scene a few times, but that's how the capture a great deal of the movie. That style of filmmaking doesn't need a script or even a basic story. Just get a bunch of friends together, shoot them having fun, shoot them angry and then find out the story in post. 

That's my beef with his movies in particular, they are long-winded and the story development appears to be created in post, which would be lazy filmmaking. 

Now I could be wrong, he may show up with a 200 page script of wall to wall dialog and then slowly throw it all away. But I don't see that being the case, based on how actors have described in trade magazines working with him and how the final products are edited and presented. 

 

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I think The Tree of Life is spectacular in every sense....its in my top 10 films of all time...it goes beyond the visual spectacle for me.....I was blown away by it.....I felt very connected to it for many reasons......for the many people I know and have known in my life......my own life philosophies and the introspection I undergo on a daily basis as a divorcee and father of two sons and what I see them battling with as a result.....as partner to a person with mental health issues battling depression....as a 53 year old who's seen a few things in life.....

the casting of Brad Pitt...perfection....has he ever made a bad film despite his looks.....Sean Penn.....wow.....forget about him being Madonna's other half.....the casting of Jessica Chastain.....her tone, voice, grace.....perfection......and this she said

"The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. 
Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.” 

masterpiece

 

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