The Tree of Life

TOL posterFox Searchlight (2011) 139 min. PG-13

Director: Terrence Malick

Screenplay: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki

Editing: Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber & Mark Yoshikawa

Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jeanette Scott

Costumes: Jacqueline West

Score: Alexandre Desplat

Stars: Brad Pitt (Mr. O’Brien), Sean Penn (Jack), Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O’Brien), Hunter McCracken (Young Jack), Laramie Eppler (R.L.), Tye Sheridan (Steve), Fiona Shaw (Grandmother)

“Think of a tree, how it grows ‘round its roots. The branch breaks off, it don’t stop, but keeps reaching toward the light.” – The New World

Terrence Malick has always been an acquired taste. His movies are mood pieces paced to the cadence of internal monologues whispered rhetorically by his characters in hushed, reverential tones onscreen. Striving for more than the movie medium can encompass, he’s a visionary seeking to push past its restricting barriers to self-expression. When the man stays focused there’s no director better at vividly evoking the sentient, existential sensations of simple human perception. His movies pulsate with the vibrancy of life as we experience it at almost a subliminal level. They heighten our awareness in a way that makes us feel as if we were experiencing a movie fully awake and responsive for the first time.

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The New World

New Line Cinema (2005) 135 min. PG-13

Director: Terrence Malick

Screenplay: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing: Richard Chew,  Hank Corwin, Saar Klein, Mark Yoshikawa

Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Costumes: Jacqueline West; Score: James Horner

Stars: Colin Farrell (John Smith), Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahontas), Christian Bale (John Rolfe), Christopher Plummer (Captain Newport), August Schellenberg (Chief Powhatan), Wes Studi (Opechancanough), David Thewlis (Wingfield), Jonathan Pryce (King George)

The New World is a cornucopia spilling over with such visual richness that it reminds me of that celebrated line Howard Carter uttered upon uncovering King Tut’s tomb. The first to enter and gaze on magnificent sights buried for nearly 3,300 years, when asked by his anxious benefactor if he saw anything, his awestruck response was “Yes, wonderful things.” Watching this Terrence Malick movie is like that – a bedazzling aesthetic experience that just leaves one enraptured. Painstakingly pieced together, it’s a finished masterpiece of found footage that retains its director’s intuitive appreciation for the unexpected, the accidental, the chance discovery. The New World is permeated by Malick’s own sense of wonder. Continue reading