Opening May 27, 2011 is director and screenwriter, Terrence Malick’s latest work, The Tree of Life. Judging from the essence of the trailer to the wave of released images, this existential science fiction film, in my estimation, has the makings of a potential tour de force. However, early word of mouth and reaction at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has been polarizing and somewhat divisive. I am holding out hope that it is beautiful and powerful as it seems; that it may succeed where Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain failed.

I would not put it past the creator of Badlands and The Thin Red Line to pull this one out. To say that Malick is a methodical filmmaker would be putting it lightly. This auteur’s auteur makes a film at about a pace of every seven years, this clip stretches over more than four decades. The Tree of Life has the makings of a memorable epic (knock on wood). It is rounded out with a powerhouse duo of actors from our generation, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. They will not be sharing scenes, I presume (unless there is some time travel happenin’ or Pitt is in some heavy Ben’ Button makeup), but each will be carrying different portions of the film. The film also welcomes rising star, striking actor (and ginger), Jessica Chastain.

Grab a tissue and pore over Roger Ebert’s touching, personal, immaculate, poetically worded review/ode to The Tree of Life: A prayer beneath the Tree of Life.

Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.

We all occupy our own box of space and time. We have our memories and no one else’s. We live one life, accumulating it in our minds as we go along. Terrence Malick was born in Waco, Texas, and has filmed much of “Tree of Life” in small Texas towns; the house of the O’Brien family is in Smithville. I felt like I knew this house and this town. Malick and I were born within a year of one another, and grew up in small towns in the midlands. Someone else, without my memories to be stirred, might be less affected by its scenes of the O’Briens raising their three boys.

I will be honest. Already sentimental because it is my loving father’s seventy-second birthday today, the room got a little dusty for me when I read Roger’s piece on the film. (Thank you to Makoto M, for the Ebert ref!) I am much looking forward to viewing Malick’s latest venture.

UPDATE-A featurette with David Fincher and Christopher Nolan:


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