A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Tree of Life -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'm not at all certain what to say about The Tree of Life.


    I presume everyone has one, whether they are aware of it, or not.


    Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Dede Gardner, Grant Hill, Emmanuel Lubezki, Alexandre Desplat, Jack Fisk...


    are some of the names behind the film, which is composed and conducted by Terrence Malick.


    To me, it appears more a tone poem than a film, although a film it is.


    While it brings back thoughts of 2001: A Space Odyssey's opening and final reel, it is far more than those thoughts.


    It is almost as if the concept of life, grace and nature (as brought forth in the film) come to life in brief shots, wide horizons, and a sequence that relates the beginning of life on earth. Add to that the interactions of a '50s Texas family.


    I don't believe one needs to know (or should know) more than that going in.


    Photographed on both film and data, The Tree of Life explodes as a visceral experience unlike anything that I've experience on film. Its 7.1 uncompressed audio track is meant to be played loud. And as an aside, for those who follow such minutia, TToL went through a full 4k digital intermediate -- a very rara avis.


    It is, without question, the best film that I've seen in 2011. It probably is one of the finest films ever created.


    I recall David Lean discussing the entrance of Ali in Lawrence of Arabia, and averring that he wished he had the guts to just hold those shots of Omar Sharif coming out of the desert another 30 seconds or so.


    The Tree of Life reminded me of that thought.


    Simply expressed, if one is purchasing a handful of Blu-ray discs this year, The Tree of Life must be one of them.


    If only a single disc is to be added to one's library, my opinion would also lead to The Tree of Life.


    I cannot recommend this film and the Blu-ray disc on which it resides more.


    Have I ever used the term Extremely Highly Recommended.


    If not, now I have.


    RAH
     
    Dave S.G. likes this.
  2. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    Agree with you 100% Mr. Harris, both in regards to this brilliant film and its beautiful Blu-ray. I'd also add that young Laramie Eppler, who plays the essential role of the middle brother identified as 'R.L.' in the credits, is an invaluable part of this incredible film. Beyond the grand scope of the much talked about creation sequences which are indeed magnificent, what really "got" to me about this film is how much it evoked feelings of spring and summer as a boy of 10-13 years old, during that time when the true scope of the world and existence started to form in my mind and the minds of my friends and we started to question it all. I've never seen that crucial exciting (and sometimes terrifying) period of boyhood so perfectly and beautifully captured on film as Malick captures it in THE TREE OF LIFE. Vincent
     
  3. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Can someone advise whether this is another one of those Malick films that everyone raves about because of the visuals, but the story itself is lacking? All I ever heard about Days of Heaven was how beautiful it looked, and it wasn't until I discovered that I owned it and gave it another viewing that I discovered why I had forgotten about it - yes, the pictures were pretty, but I did not like the characters or the storytelling.
     
  4. trajan

    trajan Screenwriter

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    Was this film shown in IMAX? Would love to see it in that format.
     
  5. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    To Jeff: To put it simply, if you don't like Malick's other films, I doubt you will like this one. I chalk this up to a matter of taste. Frankly I reject the idea that his films only have beautiful visuals but are otherwise lacking in story. Malick's films may not have conventional narrative structures as dictated by standard three-act screenplay theory, but they absolutely have compelling stories and strong characters once you get beyond that mundane crap IMO. THE TREE OF LIFE in particular- as I expound upon in my original post in this thread- comes closer to capturing on film the feeling of being a boy during that crucial period between say 11-13 years old than any other film I've ever seen.
    There were no IMAX prints of this shown, although Malick is reportedly working on a stand-alone IMAX film called VOYAGE THROUGH TIME . Vincent
     
  6. David Wilkins

    David Wilkins Supporting Actor

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    If there's one sentiment that has grown old over the years it's the "pretty pictures" sentiment expressed by very, very many toward Malick's work. True, his style isn't for everyone, but that's true of every director. But the "pretty pictures" sentiment is too easily and often expressed...like "something they've heard somewhere". Because it's beautiful doesn't mean that it lacks substance. The same shallow assumption is often held about people.
     
  7. Michel_Hafner

    Michel_Hafner Screenwriter

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    An interesting spelling slip here, just one letter away from nature as well as nurture. :)
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Thank you, Michel. My frirst typo this millennium.
     
  9. Richard V

    Richard V Cinematographer

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    Haven't seen the film, but I would tend to agree with your sentiment. With the exception of Badlands I have not been a fan of his other films, and agree with your assessment of Days of Heaven and you could probably apply this as well to The Thin Red Line in my humble opinion. I guess he is just not for everyone.
     
  10. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    He's definitely not for everyone. If you've given it a shot and gone through one film all the way maybe you should just let it go and move on to something you like. To me, however, this was one of the best films of the year. Stunning experience. Glad to hear the blu-ray measures up.
     
  11. Peter Neski

    Peter Neski Supporting Actor

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    "I discovered why I had forgotten about it - yes, the pictures were pretty, but I did not like the characters or the storytelling. " I have heard that before about "Days of Heaven" and don't agree at all ,maybe because I seen it so many times,and think the score is even one of the greatest ever done The images combined with that score and the voice over make it far better then most films IMHO The actors were good enough ,
     
  12. Wade Sowers

    Wade Sowers Second Unit

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    I love DAYS OF HEAVEN as well, but for those who have seen Murnau's CITY GIRL (1930) - available on a wonderful Region Free Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema - it is interesting to see how much this masterpiece influenced Malick, just as Wilde's BEACH RED (1967) had a lot to do with the texture of THE THIN RED LINE. All of these are fine movies, and the influence of one upon the other does not take away from Malick's vision, it just shows us how one thing leads to another and the work of an artist can be a postivie influence of those who come later.
     
  13. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    I absolutely agree, this is an extraordinary film experience. The BD is jaw-dropping. I only wish the original 3hr cut had been included on the disc. We released the film internationally, at least in Japan, and I had to QC it twice, once in the 2hr 50min cut and the second time in the present 2hr 19min cut. I LOVED both, but certain things were altered in the shorter cut that I miss from the long cut, for example: the boys crying in the long grass has a different meaning now. In this cut they are crying because their father has lost his job and they have to move from the house they grew up in. In the longer cut, because of the removal of an entire sequence, the boys are actually crying because the older brother is being sent away for his bad behavior. It is utterly heartrending because there is a line where one of them says to him, "Don't leave me, don't go..." Still, it's moving enough that they have to leave the only house they've ever known. I remember being very upset when we left the house I'd grown up in, despite the fact that it was a 150 year old shack. Apparently the Creation footage, nearly all of Reel 2, is part of an Imax film that Malick is making or made. I only read that once and have heard nothing since. As a side note, I QC'd the long version with about six other people, who were curious as I was about the film. Most were just sitting there waiting to see what sections of the film they had to order textless sequences for (of course there weren't any). By the end of the Creation footage, I was the only one left in the screening room. Everyone else thought the film rubbish. Considering the kind of safe, overblown and imaginationless tentpole films the company I work for produces, it makes perfect sense why it scared them away. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, a family member, the sum of this visual experience is deeply profound. After the death of my grandmother, I would stand outside and watch the stars move in their constellations. Somehow, their ancient light was connected with the souls of the people I missed most, those who had gone away to that otherside where I could no longer see or hear or speak to them. This film, with its visual thread of connecting roots and branches, makes perfect sense.
     
  14. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    Wade, CITY GIRL is a wonderful movie! I have that BD and had the great good luck to have seen the film projected at LACMA several years ago. They announced before it started that they were sorry but they had been told the film had an optical track and that it didn't so they would have to show it silent for they have no music prepared. They offered a refund to those who wanted one. Only one person got up and left. The rest of us stayed. CITY GIRL to my mind proves that Murnau would have moved easily into a successful career in 30's and 40's Hollywood had he not dashed his brains out on a lamp post in that Malibu car accident, or whatever really happened. In spite of the fact that Murnau never really finished the film, walked away from it so to speak, because of conflicts with Fox, and that it was finished by titlers and editors Katherine Hilliker and H.H. Caldwell, the majority of the film has his mark.
     
  15. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    I remember you mentioning that you had already seen the film nearly a year ago, Sean, interesting to hear your impressions of the longer cut. I have a PDF copy of the screenplay which is a fascinating read. There's lots in the script that didn't make the final cut (including a lot more of the parents fighting), but I don't recall anything about Jack being sent away due to his bad behavior. Then again, lots was changed from script to final film (for example, in the script
    the boy who drowns is revived and doesn't die)
    , so that stuff about Jack being sent away could have been developed during shooting. It would seem the 2:50 cut was used to create the trailer, since there's material in the trailer not in the film. Also re: the IMAX film VOYAGE THROUGH TIME, the producers have confirmed that Malick is still working on that. I don't know if you heard but Emmanuel Lubezki said in an interview last summer that Malick is putting together a much longer cut of THE TREE OF LIFE for release on home video. I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that said cut will probably eventually surface via the Criterion Collection. Vincent
     
  16. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    I hope so! I'd love to see that version again. Jack is actually sent to a school, almost a bording school, because of his difficult behavior, which all seems to begin when he steals the neighbor woman's shimmy. Then that is interrupted by the loss of his father's job, so there is a sort of spiral of bad luck that brings the story to the moving of the house. Not so much in the short version. Also, I don't remember the long version having the blur-of-city-lights to represent the passage of time at the beginning of the film. That may have been added to speed things up. Anyway, I would love to wallow in the longer version again. In any case both versions have the same result - a bright, honest and pure result of a sort of resurrection.
     
  17. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

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    I'm not a huge Malick fan, considering his work often over-rated simply because it's defiantly non-commercial (like Sean Penn's films, though in a quite different way). Badlands I thought was very good, mostly because of Sheen & Spacek but also because of the objectivity of the vision; but again, the picture in part defines itself as non-commercial, as in a sense needing that commercial film set of conventions in order for the viewer to understand what Malick was doing. Maybe; I'm not sure of any of these judgements, so keep that in mind. Days of Heaven I liked too, though I thought the visuals somewhat self-indulgent, but mostly I liked it because of Linda Manz and her amazing voice; and according to Manz, Malick called her in to free-associate when he wasn't able to quite find the film in editing. Thin Red Line I count as pretty much a failure, mainly because it deliberately downplays and strips away the camradrie of soldiers and presents them each as isolated monads, locked in their own subjectivities. While that may be true, it is a it is true only in a relatively trivial sense, thus in effect a falsehood, because (as numerous documentaries and histories tell us) the ONLY thing that makes combat tolerable to those trapped inside it is the feeling that they are not alone, that they have buddies on either side, that they are in this together. Malick's soldiers are defined by their introspections, and that's not – imho – a complete or a particularly true picture of men at war, why they fight, why they suffer, why they risk. As well, the subjectivities that are revealed in these sequences are not particularly compelling, they are too generalized, and, in the end, they do not really link up with the behaviour of the characters as soldiers. So why are they there at all? Small side point: Malick also feels a need to show the enemy, so he has unrealistically large numbers of Japanese soldiers surrendering, many of them wailing with shame, and projecting an intense hostility even as they surrender, both of which points are historically false (see the excellent PBS documentary Victory in the Pacific on this). With New World he's on somewhat solider ground because the history is so remote that very few know of it or can challenge him on it. I liked the director's cut version of, but again, as with Thin Red Line, I got the sense that to some extent the story was being driven ideologically rather than purely narratively, which in turn suggests that after the relative failure of Days of Heaven's narrative, Malick (first) gave up and (second) when he did jump back into the game, made a conscious decision to use philosophical ideas as a scaffolding rather than trying to craft a narrative that succeeds in its own terms, or characters that have a kind of autonomy and depth. Welsh & Witt have some depth, but very few of Malick's characters in his later films really convince us that they have a particular inner life. The objectivity of the vision works for nature, but for character, more is needed, and Malick's chosen methods are not easily able to give us that more, indeed they work against it. Based on the reviews, and on comments from previous posters, it does indeed look as though Malick has managed to weld together his objective and subjective views in this film, so of course I will take a look, and hope for better than he has so far delivered.
     
  18. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    Really thought DAYS OF HEAVEN a masterpiece. THIN RED LINE so so as I thought it unrealistic and choppy. THE NEW WORLD in its longer version interesting but extremely slow moving. THE TREE OF LIFE would be great as an IMAX film. A disaster as a narrative. The Blu ray disc is exceptional that will test ones home theater to the max. Make sure you have a good sub woofer.
     
  19. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    [quote name="Paul Rossen" url="/t/315424/a-few-words-about-the-tree-of-life-in-blu-ray#post_3862251] THE TREE OF LIFE would be great as an IMAX film. A disaster as a by-the-numbers standard predictable text-book 3-act narrative.[/quote] Fixed. Vincent
     
  20. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

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    :)
     

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