There apparently were loud boos and scattered applause after the film finished and esteemed critics have delivered widely different takes; Scott Foundas has given it a 10/10 score while J. Hoberman from the Village Voice has panned the picture.
As for the man who created the picture and his intentions? You'll have to keep guessing, as expected, Malick was AWOL from the Croisette and post-screen press conference. “He sees himself as building a house. He doesn’t want to focus on the selling of the real estate," Brad Pitt said, trying to explain the auteur's absence. But clearly some journalists in Cannes felt the ambiguous picture demanded explanation and therefore Malick should have been there.
Captured from our IndieWIRE colleagues:
Moderator Henri Behar asked why was Malick not here for his own press conference?
“Mr. Malick is very shy and I believe his work speaks for itself,” said “The Tree of Life” producer Dede Gardner.
“That’s not good enough,” Behar replied.
Gardner shot back, “Turn the volume up.”
Well, that pretty much answers that. Malick's shooting methods are unusual to say the least and even the film's star admitted it could be taxing.
"It’s like he’s waiting with a butterfly net to catch what was going by that day,” Pitt said. “It’s exhausting.” Jessica Chastain added "It’s all about capturing an accident. He would be shooting and Brad would be wonderful and then there’d be a woodpecker nearby and he’d turn to that. You can’t plan any moment." Sean Penn who also co-stars in the film was also absent from the press conference, though he'll apparently be in Cannes tonight.
"It would take many days to explain the film's creative process," Pitt said at today's press conference captured by E! Online. "The screenplay was wonderfully written, very intense, but Terrence Malik didn't want to follow it slavishly. He likes to capture the truth between the lines. That's why this film feels so fresh. On top of that, it was almost entirely shot in natural daylight. This film is universal. Terrence Malick wants to speak to all cultures."
It needs to be said, European journalists can be asshats sometimes (and possibly it's a lost in translation thing?). Some of them asked Pitt inane questions about Malick, “Does he laugh? Does he talk? Is he stern? Is he jovial? Does he like food?” demanded one fool. “Yes, and he even goes to the bathroom,” Pitt deadpanned.
At least three more Playlist members see the film tonight in NY and L.A. so there could be more reactions forthcoming. "The Tree Of Life" hits theaters in limited release on May 27. Lots of new photos from the film throughout this post.
Update: After all that, Mr. Malick did eventually show up, but on his own terms and in his own quiet way.
"Brad and I are standing there and everyone's applauding, I looked over and in walked Terry," Jessica Chastain told USA Today. "I don't think people realized it. The festival of course knew, but it was a last minute thing. And the camera kind of turned to the ground even though the premiere was being televised. There was nothing for like a minute on the screen and that's because Terry came in. He stood there and everyone was clapping. The festival director was going 'Yes!' and throwing his arms up and trying to get everyone to recognize who Terry is. I came over and hugged Terry and Brad hugged Terry and Terry hugged his wife and it was a beautiful moment. It lasted like a minute and then he was gone."
Here's Brad Pitt talking "Tree Of Life" At The Cannes Film Festival press conference.