Malick’s Tree of Life wins the Palme D’Or and a great look at Lynch and Mulholland Drive

Tree of Life opens this Friday in the United States.

Wonderful behind the scenes footage of Lynch orchestrating Mulholland Drive:


29 thoughts on “Malick’s Tree of Life wins the Palme D’Or and a great look at Lynch and Mulholland Drive

      • Haha! This brings me back to our great Antichrist debate, Adam!

        He does talk shit–true–but he also delivers the goods.

        • I will respectfully disagree; I find his films a case of diminishing returns. There was a time (the 1990s) when I rather enjoyed his work, and looked forward to his new films. Now I simply find him embarrassing, vain, and reactionary (not to mention often boring). Give me Epidemic or Zentropa or The Kingdom or Breaking the Waves or The Idiots or even Dancer in the Dark over anything he’s made in the past ten+ years.

          Though I did mildly enjoy Boss of It All.

          • I think LVT is on top of his game. Manderlay was a complete flop but Dogville is solid–great use of a Brechtian framework–and I suppose it’s obvious we disagree about Antichrist. The Boss of it All is a minor movie but extremely well done. And his Jørgen Leth collaboration is magnificent.

            • To each his own cinema. I didn’t like Dogville all that much, and skipped Manderlay. I would like to see The Five Obstructions. I will probably skip this new one; I’ve seen enough.

              • Definitely skip Manderlay.

                But I think you might like The Five Obstructions — it has a great neo-Oulipian sensibility. And you see LVT at his most humane.

            • Much agreed. There aren’t many people who can artfully and powerfully portray their consciousness (whatever shitstorm there breathes) through motion pictures. He is one of a very short list.

              The “Dominant” in Hollywood are actor-centric pictures. Vehicles, created by profit-conscious committees.

              I sense Adam might hold him in contempt because of his getting more publicity than others. He is full of himself, but many directors are – they have to be. So much the better for the discriminating viewer.

              • No, that’s not it at all (and I wonder how or where you sense that?). Popularity means very little to me. I dislike his actual newer films, and think them weaker than his older ones.

                Still, I’m glad he’s out there. I’d rather things be shaken up than staid.

              • I wanted to add: I don’t really get how Von Trier is an alternative to mainstream Hollywood pictures. For one thing, he’s just as eager to cast big stars as anyone else. (Precisely who is in this new one? And just won a big award for her performance?) It’s a basic fact of life that making films is expensive, and it’s hard to attract money unless you have bankable stars (which remain the safest bet as to whether a film will attract an audience).

                And it’s not as though Von Trier is competing with mainstream Hollywood films, in any case. You live in NYC, Greg; you could go to the cinema every week, and never once have to watch a blockbuster! Meanwhile, it’s not like Von Trier is playing in Peoria.

                Von Trier’s real “competition” are filmmakers like foreign/arthouse directors like Pedro Almodóvar, Wes Anderson, Roy Andersson, Jacques Audiard, Ramin Bahrani, Bong Joon-ho, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pedro Costa, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Claire Denis, Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Haneke, Miyazaki Hayao, Werner Herzog, Oliver Hirschbiegel, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Jim Jarmusch, Abbas Kiarostami, Ang Lee, David Lynch, Lucrecia Martel, Terrence Malick, Cristi Puiu, Carlos Reygadas, Jacques Rivette, Aleksandr Sokurov, Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-Liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-Wai, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Jia Zhangke. Among others. In other words, the festival circuit. All of whom someone who lives in cities like NYC or Chicago can regularly choose to see films by, instead of by Von Trier.

                It’s good, by the way, so see conversation like this at Big Other. I hope you guys are doing well!

                • Von Trier tends to do really well with his leading actresses–whether it be Barbara Sukowa, Bjork, Nicole Kidman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, or Emily Watson…I’m not a big K. Dunst fan so I’m very interested to see how she is in Melancholia.

                  Ditto on the conversation — nice to exchange some views with you again, Adam…it’s been some time.

                  • I believe it’s a time-honored tradition for foreign filmmakers to use Hollywood stars or just stars.

                    Antonioni/Nicholson – The Passenger

                    Wong Kar Wai – Jude Law/Portman – My Blueberry Nights

                    Bergman/Elliot Gould – The Touch

                    Kiarostami/Binoche – Certified Copy

                    Haneke/Naomi Watts – Funny Games

                    As you say it is a way to get funding.

                    Actually, I believe Von Trier thinks is in competetion with America, the country that is. He hates America (Dogville) and he is right to hate the enititlements etc. (though I wouldn’t ever stitch a Canadian flag on my pack if I went overseas again).

                    It would be interesting to hear what those filmmakers think of him. Assayas celebrated the new film in some remarks.

                    As to the popularity question, I have a theory that we (myself included) develop secret biases against things that get too popular because we know there is a lot of other great stuff out there that is getting ignored. Your main targets: Von Trier, Haneke, McCarthy, Inception, James Wood have all gotten a lot of press in their particular fields. But I guess people tend to denigrate the big targets. Of course maybe it’s just me (I don’t think it is). Even my bashing of Brad Pitt’s acting probably has some component of this, though I have pointed out what in the acting doesn’t work for me.

                    If Elias Koteas and Bruce Greenwood were more celebrated for their acting and were able to take on some of Pitt’s parts I’m might not complain.

                    • I agree with you that that happens, but I don’t think I’m doing that here. I don’t really care if people like Von Trier or his films or pay attention to them, whatever. I am simply saying that I myself don’t like his later films all that much. I don’t think I can say it any more plainly than that…?

                      Of course the subconscious is a mysterious beast and perhaps I secretly despise him because he is successful. But I don’t think that’s any more the case here than anywhere else. The same is true with the others you mention—Haneke, McCarthy, Inception, James Wood. I don’t care that they’re famous. I just want to be able to contribute to the conversation about those people/things.

                      (In other words, I get upset when everyone is saying the same thing, and there isn’t much diversity to critical opinion. The amount of critical opinion doesn’t much concern me. Although it is better in general when there is variety, I’d argue.)

                    • But isn’t the Catch-22 kind of: if they weren’t famous, you wouldn’t be criticizing them?

                      Their press (and as you say a lot is couching the same opinions in different sentences) makes them more visibile, more viable, more marketable.

                      Is anyone writing Seventeen Ways of Criticizing Mary Caponegro?

                    • I might be. I think if you look through the list of all the things I’ve written for this site, the more obscure stuff easily outnumbers the better-known stuff. I can’t help it, though, if people would rathwer read the Inception and Batman posts. :)

                      But regardless of what I’m writing about, I try always to contribute something unique to the ongoing cultural conversation. With Inception, I didn’t see much variety in the conversation about that film (at that time)—people were going on and on about how fascinating and innovative it was, and I didn’t share that opinion, and wanted to say something different. When I wrote about Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, I did a comprehensive analysis and close reading, because that seemed to be something that was needed.

        • Yes, we should see it next week! I’m not too excited about Mr. Pitt, but as the critics like to say, maybe, the director (Malick) will have pulled a great performance out of him.

          • Isn’t Brad Pitt bashing a little passe? I mean, he’s no Keanu Reeves (one of my favorite contemporary actors), but I’ve enjoyed his work in a quite a few films now: Thelma & Louise, Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, Fight Club, Snatch. (he steals the whole movie, which is admittedly a rather shallow affair), Ocean’s Twelve, Burn After Reading (I disliked the film, but not because of him), and Inglourious Basterds.

            And I’ve not seen what some argue are his best roles: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. One of these days…

            • He just doesn’t make me want to watch him. He’s not a magnetic like Penn and Day-Lewis. His energy doesn’t seem primal like those two. I don’t think he knows the characters he plays that well, there’s a lot of bluster and affectation, but I don’t believe it. I want him to think about what he’s doing more. He’s similar to Cruise, he just doesn’t have “it.”

              Robert Redford (the most obvious comparison) did it much better because he knew he didn’t take himself that seriously:

              James Salter in his memoir Burning the Days:

              “My presence in something,” I remember [Redford] saying, perhaps in apology, “is enough to give it an aura of artificiality.”

              • I saw The New World yesterday, and I remarked to my girlfriend that Colin Farrell isn’t that charismatic an actor. The second that Christian Bale walks onscreen, I like him. Farrell, however, remains remote and withdrawn the entire film.

                But I think that’s good casting. Not all actors should be charismatic; not all performance should be naturalistic, or even “invisible” within the film. In The New World, Farrell plays a remote, withdrawn person; Bale plays a warm, charismatic man. Malick used them well.

                • Farrell is a non-entity…it’s not a priority but I may eventually see The New World one of these days.

                  • Yes, he really recedes into the scene. Even after I’ve seen him in things, I feel like I’ve never seen him. It’s a curious quality.

                    To me, good direction of acting is recognizing which qualities an actor can give, then incorporating them successfully into the film. Some actors can provide a wider range of qualities than others; they are the ones people commonly refer to as good actors. But I don’t think it’s bad when an actor can provide only one quality, if it’s a unique or enjoyable or otherwise useful one.

                    For instance, I’m rather sincere in my adoration of Keanu Reeves. He may always be “the same,” but his presence in a film is rather unique and inimitable (and, to my mind, extremely enjoyable). If I were casting a film, and I wanted Keanu Reeves for a part, and I couldn’t get him, there’s no one else I could cast to replace him; I’d have to re-imagine both the film and the part.

                    To my mind, that is great acting. There have been so many actors for so long, it’s hard to provide a unique presence on stage or on camera.

            • Oh, he’s fantastic in Burn After Reading — I think that is really his kind of role…

              I hadn’t seen it in over a decade but I remember him being decent in A River Runs Through It.

            • he is very good in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. very good. still, that is Casey Afleck’s film. doting on James. but, again, the director did an excellent job there: he acutely saw a way to use two actors (Pitt plays an exhuasted, emptied version of himself, and Afleck dotes on him like an adoring, obsessed (unknown, relatively unknown) fan would – it makes perfect sense).

              in any case, i’m so happy Malick won this prize. far and away my favorite director. i can’t wait to see the film.

              • Thanks for checking in Alan. Yes, this is a big event. I’m trying not to hype it in my mind. I’m already starting to wonder how he can possibly weave what the trailer shows into 138 minutes.

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