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In the Dark

Modernists Amuck

The Tree of Life
Produced by Cottonwood Pictures and River Road Entertainment
Written and directed by Terrence Malick
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Entertainment

Midnight in Paris
Produced by Letty Aronson
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics

 

Evelyn Waugh once remarked that, while reading Ulysses, one could watch James Joyce going mad, sentence by sentence.  I felt the same way about Terrence Malick while watching The Tree of Life.  Frame by frame, I grew increasingly uneasy about Malick’s sanity.  He’s clearly a talented filmmaker who has much on his mind, so much that it has strained his wits to the snapping point.  He has no sense of balance or proportion.  Worse, he’s absolutely devoid of humor, as he has already proved in his earlier films, especially The Thin Red Line, his perverse misadaptation of James Jones’ novel.

In Tree Malick has attempted to tell the story of a modern-day Job living in Waco, Texas, the city of his own upbringing.  The resulting film mixes overwrought melodrama with visualizations of the origin of the universe done in the National Geographic mode.  It’s an attempt, I suppose, to place the viewer at the intersection of the quotidian and the cosmic.

The narrative, if...

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