Cannes 2011: The S&S blog

Terrence Malick: to bury or praise?

The Tree of Life

Nick James, 16 May

It’s always clear at Cannes which is the most important screening. Feeling the mass anticipation of a chock-full Grand Palais at 8.30am this morning it was obvious that Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (above) was the one. You knew too that some people had already decided they would completely hate it and some completely love it before they even saw it. For them Malick can either do no wrong or do no right.

Cannes’ atmosphere and the need for immediate reporting have distorted many a film’s reception, but the pro- and anti-Malick camps seem particularly clear in their opposition. You can get caught up in all that excitement despite yourself. I thought I smelled a turkey myself before I came here.

I was happily wrong but I’m not going to go into my full view of the film here because a) I went almost immediately into another theatre to see Bruno Dumont’s Outside Satan – another gobsmacker in its way, b) I’m at neither extreme and c) I’m not quite sure what I think yet. Let others have the first bites, I’d rather let it sink in first. But I am certain that those immediate opinions you read today will reveal as much about the prejudices as well as the advocacies of some reviewers as about the film itself.

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See also

The Thin Red Line reviewed by Michael Atkinson (DVD, December 2010)

Popcorn patter: David Thomson rediscovers Badlands (September 2008)

The New World reviewed by Amy Taubin (February 2006)

The Thin Red Line reviewed by Geoffrey Macnab (March 1999)

Bayonets in paradise: Colin MacCabe on The Thin Red Line (February 1999)

Last Updated: 19 May 2011