Monday, July 18, 2011

The Tree Of Life

If you are homosexually inclined, especially if you fancy young boys, this is the film for you.  An experiment in narrative, it rips off the "new American cinema" of the 1960's, most notably Bruce Conner's Cosmic Ray, Ed Emshwiller, and the work of Stan Brakhage.  It also plagiarizes freely from Truffaut's Les Quatre Cent Coups, and even offers digital dinosaurs to adults who are intellectually challenged.  The acting is almost non-existent, Brad Pitt unconsciously parodying his best work in, say, Fight Club.  Set in Waco, Texas, home turf for the director Terence Malick (who got his start studying with the gay academic philosopher Stanley Cavell), its time frame is decades before the FBI early Clinton years burning of the cult there, and the churchy depression-years characters, including the aggressive and generally horrible little Freudian urchins, are all death-in-life American rural lower middle class noir.  The visual pomposity, particularly the underwater work, highly influenced by the late-life photography of Leni Riefenstahl, often is stunning, although the huge amounts of money spent on the film could clearly have been better spent feeding thousands of starving people and used for vaccination against disease in the Third World.  Everything in the film is derivative, from Sean Penn's corporate Alphaville to the oh-so-clever sign reference to Kevin Spacey.  In the end, all the characters are transported Rapturelike to the director's image of la-la land. Like Spielberg's ET or Cameron's Avatar and other idiocies which have contributed to the dumbing down of America, Tree is really a good reason to support Godard's view of the crumbling of what was greatness in Hollywood pre- and post WWII cinema, and a good reason to see Jean-Luc's Film Socialisme.