Friday, June 10, 2011

the grand scheme of things

'07 was a year stained with oil, blood, and had tire marks all 'round it. Since then, the years have given us only a handful of great films. I'm not doggin' the great films released since. What I am saying is that the paint is starting to run dry and the canvases are starting to shrink and contract.

There is no refuting the evidence at hand- the broken down pieces of meat, the disappearing pencils, the blood stained bats. All circumstantial? I for one, think not. These weren't simple magic tricks that disappeared from our memories like most of the films released the past few years- jammed into our eyes faster than you can say "ta-da!". These were films that made a lasting impression. You wanna come out of a movie theater still thinking about it weeks, hell, months afterward. The problem is, there just weren't enough of those moments.

So we waited. & whatever mediocre movie popped up, it was garnished and lathered with praise. I for one was getting...a little antsy.

Well sometimes there's a movie. & sometimes there's a movie. A Serious Man was the last of that brand for a while. Since then, the ringing telephone has only given us bad news.

It was around that same year I heard the rumblings of a long awaited film. One that would arrive with great force. Not unlike a young Danny gazing upon a 'finger of God' headed his way. It was from a totemic force in cinema- Terrence Malick. Set to release a film called Tree of Life.

I think I can summarize my review with two quotes from people sitting next to me. When it ended, the elderly couple next to me said "This is the most pretentious movie I have seen." The woman in back of me said "I felt like I just went to church." Just from walking to the exit, I heard reactions ranging from "awful" to "wonderful". My theater also had its fair share of walk outs. But those who stayed to the end would not stop talking about what it stirred inside them. & it is in the humble opinion of this blogger, that if you can have a film do that & to that extent, then the director must be doing something right.

This isn't an angry opus like Apocalypse Now. The closest film I can compare it to is the one being mentioned in the reviews. & that is 2001: A Space Odyssey. When you look at both films, a good chunk of them have more in common with music than other films. Because at the end of the day, we want to walk out of the theatre feeling inspired. Moved even. That tasty full meal that keeps you coming back to that restaurant for more. Instead of just, as some would say, "egg noodles and ketchup."

Well, Malick gives us a full meal alright. One that doesn't go down easy. But before the compliments can me made to the chef, one has to gauge where this film stands.
Like 2001, Tree of Life deals with incredibly deep themes. Creation, evolution, religion, fatherhood, brotherhood, fathers & sons. The editing & movement is graceful. Shots that pan upward to the skies. Shots of ladders, stairways. The camera is never still. When watching any of Malick's features, it is obvious the guy has a knack for capturing nature to its fullest beauty. It's something that has always outlined his canvases. Here, the story suits it in a most ambitious way. Two ways through life as the woman narrating in the beginning says- nature and grace.

The two ways being exemplified in the mother and father who runs a family set in a 50s midwestern town that seemes refreshingly real. A time & place modestly captured.

One of the many things taken from this experience is the music. The use of John Tavener's ethereal music gives the film a religous tone. You feel, as the woman behind me said, like you are at church. Spiritualism runs rampant throughout the picture.

The spiritualism was the thing I responded to the most. It's what made it transcend. The film is practically a visual sermon. It is where this film dwarfs most other cinema released in the past few years. Malick reaches where most filmmakers dare to even think of. Attempting to no less encompass human origin & man's very role in existance. The creation footage is truly a wonder to behold. In the tradition of Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi & the Jupier & Beyond the Infinite sequence of 2001, this footage is a spectacle of awe & wonder. It stirred something inside that has been rarely felt.

It's been hard to try & spew out what this film provoked in me. I'm sure a second viewing will certainly benefit. All I know is this: Malick created something that will stand the test of time. Something that will be scrutinized & studied over for years.

The state of cinema may not be what all of us filmgoers hope for. We have to wait patiently for some of our favorite filmmakers to release their next work. Some 2 years apart, some 6 years apart. When walking out of the theater after seeing this, I realized that sometimes that 6 year gap is worth it.

"So, what did ya think?" said a friend.

"Still thinkin' about this one." I told her. "Still thinkin'."

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