Right from the start of his career, it was clear that Terrence Malick was out to challenge the conventions of the art to which he was dedicating himself. Even that first film, Badlands, showed some unconventional ideas about time. His subsequent films, varying in success, all showed an impulse to see, to realize, in an individual way.
2011 wasn't the most interesting year for film, but it did have its moments: The silent film reasserted itself while Scorsese went 3D, Terrence Malick recreated the genesis of the universe and Maya Rudolph got diarrhea in a wedding dress. But how will these ambitious projects fare at the 84th Academy Awards show this Sunday night?
Here’s another “movie” from Britain that without a touch of pomp or pretension seeks to ask us, “Well, why in hell do you think you know what a movie is, or has to be?” Since nearly anything could serve and function within the gloriously loose structure of The Trip, I found myself hoping that its two guys might find one of their conversations leading into a lugubrious consideration of what Terrence Malick thought The Tree of Life was really about.
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?