Cannes Reaction to ‘The Tree of Life’ – Boos and Cheers

Predictably there was a lot of spectacle surrounding the release of Terence Malick’s 2011 Cannes Film Festival entry The Tree of Life. The well-loved director has been working on his latest project for decades and it finally started and finished filming in 2008 and has been in post-production for 3 years. After numerous release date shuffles and endless speculation the film was screened this morning for critics at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a polarizing response.

Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly reports on the action surrounding the film’s release and reports that there were boos from the audience as the screening concluded that were immediately counteracted with immense cheers.

Though the movie opens for everyone May 27, audience members crushed at the entrance Monday morning, shoving and hollering to gain entrance to a film that has been eagerly anticipated at Cannes for two years. With passions so high to see it, the movie’s debut mirrored the film’s central conflict: a boy trying to live up to the high standards of his harsh father. Only in this case it was Cannes notoriously harsh community of critics and journalists.

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter had one of the first long-form reviews of the film and he does not reveal much about its quality other than the fact that he liked it. He also uses the old cop-out method that people who don’t like it probably just didn’t “get it.”

As such, it is hardly a movie for the masses and will polarize even buffs, some of whom may fail to grasp the connection between the depiction of the beginnings of life on Earth and the travails of a 1950s Texas family. But there are great, heady things here, both obvious and evanescent, more than enough to qualify this as an exceptional and major film.

Matthew Leyland writing for Total Film loved the film as well, saying it pays homage to classic mind-bending movies while creating something all its own at the same time.

Imagine a cross between Kubrick’s 2001, Terence Davies’ evocative, elliptical Distant Voices Still Lives and The Blue Planet and you’ll be part of the way there.

But really it’s its own unique beast – precious and pretentious for sure, but crafted with extraordinary grace, ambition and beauty.

Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times does his best to summarize the film, which takes 10 paragraphs of his review and turns out to be a very difficult task.

Despite the Edenic title, the Book of Job is a big theme here, cited explicitly several times and implicitly more often. Indeed, in addition to youth and identity, and parents and children, and love and family, this a movie very much about sadness and suffering, not to mention religion generally.

Dave Calhoun of Time Out London has the one slightly negative review of the film as he says it tries to hard to elaborate on big ideas that it ends up spreading itself too thin.

There’s so much brilliance at work in ‘The Tree of Life’, the new film from Terrence Malick, and the film’s ambition and willingness to lay itself open to interpretation are hard to fault. But it’s also difficult not to conclude that this hugely anticipated film from American cinema’s lesser-spotted poet of man and nature is a work that stretches itself so broadly by asking the Big Questions that it ends up dealing in platitudes.

Apparently the booing came from audience members, not critics, as the initial reviews seem to indicate that the film is a hit. More reviews will undoubtedly be trickling in throughout the day, so it is too soon to speculate on Palme d’Or possibilities. Stay tuned.

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  • I suppose it is impossible to do grade estimation for something so all over the place. I’m actually more intrigued after reading some of these mixed opinions.

    As for the Palme d’Or, I doubt this one ever had a chance with that crowd. DeNiro may increase its odds though.

  • Jose

    Should this be my first Malick movie or should I watch something else from him first?

  • Angel E.

    With any director Jose,
    You should probably watch his work before.

    He does have his own unique style that isn’t for everyone…

    I for one am really anxious for this film.
    When it is compared to be somewhat 2001, my 2nd favorite film, then you know i may like it even more.

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