Robert De Niro

Stanley Kauffmann is on temporary leave. This review was written by David Thomson. The Tree of LifeFox Searchlight The Greatest virtue of Terrence Malick’s new film may be the controversy attending it. Whatever we think of The Tree of Life as a show or a work of art, there are going to be defenders and doubters driven to join a fierce debate that turns on these questions: “Very well, in 2011, with the movies on life support, what should an ambitious American motion picture look and feel like? What should it do to us? And what do we require of this strange medium?

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Once upon a time—between September 1913 and February 1936—there was Vanity Fair. A quarter of a century after it folded, Cleveland Amory called it “America’s most memorable magazine,” and only a curmudgeon would quarrel with that accolade. It inspired an unusual fondness in both its contributors and its readers when it was alive, and amazingly its reputation still inspires much the same fondness in those who have never turned its pages. It is understandable that Condé Nast Publications Inc., the firm descended from the original publisher, should have been tempted to revive it.

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