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On the crooked and the narrow

movie-reviews Updated: Jan 21, 2012 00:58 IST

Hindustan Times
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The Tree of Life
Director: Terrence Malick
Reliance, Rs 599
Rating: **1/2

Contrary to popular belief, the Palme D’Or is not the filmic equivalent of the Booker prize. It’s not seen as a deterrent — an early warning of turgidity and self-consciousness — rather than an attraction.

Why then would the latest prize have gone to The Tree of Life, a Pointillistic film that feeds on fetishisms? Maybe because several page-three heads hail writer and director Terrence Malick as a genius. Malick, maker of The Thin Red Line, does indeed make you feel that every shot is sacred and every note is great. But the genius bit maybe because he makes two films a decade — and then it takes others another five years to figure out what they were all about.

Consider The Tree. Of the five main characters — Mr O’Brien, his unnamed wife, his son Jack (as a boy and an adult) and Jack’s younger brother — only the super-strict and ill-tempered father, frustrated at being an engineer rather than a pianist, gets to emote. The others are seemingly without any agency. All that Jessica Chastain as the mother, Hunter McCracken as the young Jack and Sean Penn as the adult Jack have to do is look blankly past the camera.

The rousing classical music helps melt such an Impressionistic picture into some interspersing grand images of the universe’s creation. Well, did you like Godfrey Reggio’s no-words-spoken film, Koyaanisqatsi?

This one’s its shadow.