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Tree of Life Update: Staying Power, Malick's Next Moves

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood June 1, 2011 at 9:18AM

While The Tree of Life continues to score at the specialty box office--although not as well as Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, his biggest hit in years--we're not only looking forward to Terrence Malick's next film, an untitled romance starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, but the often slow and deliberate filmmaker may be ramping up another one as well.
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Thompson on Hollywood

While The Tree of Life continues to score at the specialty box office--although not as well as Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, his biggest hit in years--we're not only looking forward to Terrence Malick's next film, an untitled romance starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, but the often slow and deliberate filmmaker may be ramping up another one as well.

The LAT reports that the next one deploys similar production techniques as The Tree of Life and is even more experimental. Sections of the film have been shown by FilmNation to buyers and has sold many overseas territories but not North America; it also stars Olga Kurylenko, Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem, Barry Pepper and Tree's Jessica Chastain.

One person who's seen footage, writes the LAT, confirms that the "meditativeness for which Malick is known is there in spades," as well as shots with "Malick's trademark man-in-nature style." There were reshoots, suggesting a "Malickian level of tinkering," but news that his crew has been alerted to keep their summer and fall schedules open hints that this untitled film may be finished soon to make room for whatever Malick's seventh film will be.

The LAT also reports on Voyage of Time, an IMAX documentary using the same birth-of-the-universe footage seen in Tree. Brad Pitt will narrate the film, which will use a team of 20 advisers to guarantee scientific accuracy. Says LAT: "According to a treatment for the documentary, Voyage of Time will cover the first signs of life, bacteria, cellular pioneers, first love, consciousness, the ascent of humanity, life and death and the end of the universe."

Tree of Life has Christians talking, bloggers blogging, and is boosting Chastain's profile, as pundits wonder what its ultimate fate will be. While some wonder if its few negative reviews could hurt its Oscar chances, 88% on Rotten Tomatoes is pretty damned good. Weird and strange it is; it's also the sort of must-see people want to check out for themselves.

Associated Content considers Palme d'Or winners that became hits, like Pulp Fiction -- as well as those that were forgotten -- and says "maybe, just maybe, The Tree of Life will be one of those real gems that can make a legacy all by itself, a diamond in the rough." This weekend's box office results are a good indication that Tree isn't going to be forgotten anytime soon; it should show lasting cultural relevance. Like every other Malick film, it will continue to be discussed and debated at length.

This article is related to: Box Office, Reviews, Headliners, Genres, Directors, Drama, Independents


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.