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Brad Pitt On Malick's Cannes Absence: "He Focuses On Building Houses, Not Selling Real Estate"

by Edward Davis
May 16, 2011 5:04 AM
9 Comments
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Plus 9 New Photos From The Film



Alright, Terrence Malick's long-awaited, long-anticipated "The Tree of Life" has landed at the Cannes Film Festival and as many of us have guessed, reactions are mixed as the experimental, more meditative-focused rather than narrative-focused picture has proven to be a divisive effort (here's our reaction and review and here's an extremely comprehensive compilation of reaction from the criterati at large).

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.




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9 Comments

  • KitCon | May 17, 2011 6:36 AMReply

    He came in, stayed for a minute, and asked that his image not be caught on camera? A nice flare for mystery and drama.

  • Chambord | May 17, 2011 3:02 AMReply

    No no, I'm stressing the nuance : trying too hard may bring results in the end, but you try ... TOOOO MUUCHH :) Otherwise you're OK.

  • Edward Davis | May 17, 2011 2:46 AMReply

    Fuck, got me. I try tooo HHHAAARD.

  • Chambord | May 17, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    The "one fool / asshat" who deadpanned about Malick's reclusivness was actually ... the moderator, Henri Behar. But looks like american reserve bloggers don't get much of "european journalists" jokes. Better ask the playlist's main team in Cannes first. I defended your pokes on a previous on-TOL post but looks like ppl were right. You're just trying (desperately) too much.

  • padre | May 17, 2011 1:56 AMReply

    Now that is a movie star.

  • Nik | May 16, 2011 8:02 AMReply

    I think Pitt's explanation on Malick's absense, especially when he used the favorite song analogy were right on the money.

    Great press conference.

  • GATZ | May 16, 2011 5:54 AMReply

    Yes, J. Hob does dissent, but remember, Malick is not one of his favorites to begin with. (He's a notorious detractor of "The New World," which I adore.) Fortunately, we live in a world that can accomodate both JH and TM's undeniable greatness.

  • Matthew G | May 16, 2011 5:46 AMReply

    I think it is a little inaccurate to say that this film elicited diverse responses, pretty much if you look at many critics Twitter feeds and the MUBI Notebook roundup, it is a pretty strongly positive response from US critics. There are a few dissenters here and there, one notable one being the great J. Hoberman, which saddens me, but not too many.

  • KT | May 16, 2011 5:19 AMReply

    Pitt looks fucking ridiculous in those glasses.

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