Terrence Malick’s newest film The Tree of Life opened this week in select theaters across America to the eager eyes of film students and art house buffs alike. “I’ve been waiting to see this movie since I first heard Malick was doing a new film...over six years ago”, exclaimed Eli Philips, a graduate film production student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a concentration in Pretentious Art House Cinema.
Malick has amassed quite a following over the years for his amazing visuals and complete lack of any coherent story.
“I’ve realized that in order to make an award-winning film, you need to make something so completely ambiguous that anyone in the film community is terrified to say that they don’t understand it”, explain Malick, in an atypical candid interview with the reclusive director. He went on the state, “In order to compensate for not understanding my films, they just throw awards at them. It’s a formula that has worked for me in the past and I expect similar results with The Tree of Life.”
Malick may be on to something. Despite being booed by audience members at its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, the film went on the win the festival’s top honor, The Palme d’Or.
“Terry’s like the Pied Piper when it comes to the art-house crowd”, said Margie Steinbaum, marketing director for a major film distributor, “He throws up some pretty visuals, a sweeping orchestral score and a thoroughly confusing plot and two hours later everyone in the audience is too afraid to admit they just wasted 138 minutes of their life; so they give it an award.”
“I love Malick’s work, so much. Every one of his films speak to me”, confided Tasha Simmons, a film student at Columbia University’s School of the Arts with a concentration in Overly Emotional Social Dramas.
Simmons is not alone in her assessment, as Steinbaum went on to explain, “In our marketing research we’ve polled film students and found that they will clamor for anything with Malick’s name on it. When asked whether they would be happy if Malick would simply take a dump in a cardboard box, film it from every possible angle, spend three years editing the footage together and then finish it off with a sweeping orchestral score, all those polled said they would not be impressed. Then we actually showed them footage of Malick taking a dump in a cardboard box, filmed from every angle, which he spent three years editing together and finished with an orchestral score, and the pollsters went wild.”
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, is all I have to say”, exclaimed Simmons, after viewing the cardboard box footage “Malick is such an auteur.”
Not everyone is as impressed with Malick’s work, however. Movie theater owner, Art Green, offered a unique glimpse behind the entertainment curtain, “Look everyone in the industry knows that Malick’s stuff is pretentious crap, but nobody’s going to say anything as long as the artsy-fartsy folks keep throwing awards at him. I’m one of the few theaters in the area that will play his stuff, because he brings in a certain crowd. Granted, me and my staff have to put up with a few weeks of pretentious trust-fund kids with their scraggly beards, converse all-stars and little fedora hats, but we turn a tidy profit in the end.”
Perhaps the most concise assessment of how Malick continues to get work came from the film’s star, Brad Pitt, at a press conference after the Cannes win,
“Look, I just want to win a damn Oscar. That’s the only reason I signed on to this project. On set, half the time I didn’t even know where the damn camera was pointed, or if it was even rolling for that matter. Hell, I didn’t even see a script until the last week. I didn’t know what was going on, and neither will audiences. Terry is sure to rake in the awards with this film and I’m planning to collect.”
Whether Malick will deliver or not is still up in the air, but he’s off to a promising start.