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Sunday, May 27, 2012

TREE OF LIFE THE MOVIE

     damien hirst, spot painting



I've been watching THE TREE OF LIFE for an hour and so far it's the most boring movie I've sat this far through. It strikes me as a National Geographic presentation of the suburban American family idealized unto vapid suburban nothingness. I'd rather watch kids skateboard on YouTube. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn stand around and sit around looking officious. A lot of slow motion explosions, images of flow in water and air, volcanoes. It's like a 60s hippie dream of the ideal of suburban living. An hour into it I don't know the characters, don't care about them, don't want to see them in the next scene, but there they are. I get the feeling it is an attempt to make an abstract film accessible to the masses that don't care. Now, half way through it, I have to listen to a boring sermon by a priest, the kind of thing I endured every Sunday of my childhood. It's a vision of the 50s American suburban family in all its worst, parents alienating their kids. The post-war generation of psycho parenting.  In the beginning was a suggestion to turn the volume up loud. I tried it. People talk in whispers. Turned volume down after I realized it's a whisper movie and put the subtitles on. At netflix it has 5 stars. Several people told me it's really great, gotta see it. All that's missing is vaseline on the lens.


Two-thirds of the way through the film I'm seeing it was my time of growing up, 13 in 1955, and seeing similar attitudes and belief systems in the household familiar to me. It's appearing the boy who might grow up to be Sean Penn has the very same relationship with his dad as I did mine. The film is attempting to portray how it feels in a round about way that doesn't work. It evokes a feeling, but it's nowhere near what the kid is feeling. Merely a portrayal of the twists bad parenting puts in the kids. Even though I don't like the movie so far, it is starting to get to me a little bit emotionally, bringing up memories I'd prefer to forget. Then about the time I start thinking I could like it, Brad Pitt starts jabbering about the beauty of the flowers and trees and I gag within. I don't think the word "zilch" was in popular usage in 1955. I'm thinking it is a more recent word than that. But, what do I know? I was a kid then and don't remember very well now.


Time is about up, it should be wrapping up now. The very most boring end of all time. This had to be made by an old hippie who still has long hair to prove he's authentic.  Phew. I thought it was over, then it was not. That's it. I am so very glad it's over. Don't ever want to see it again. Don't even want to remember it. I know I'm overlooking artistic merit, pretty smoke clouds, filthy dirty waterfalls of almost black water from the pollution. I know, that's part of what it has to say. It wasn't all flowers and trees, but when I want to see a National Geographic nature extravaganza of artistic shots of waves washing up on a beach, and suburbs, suburbs, suburbs, I know how to find them. Much of what I couldn't stand I'll call the "corn factor," which amounts to mom dancing barefoot in the suburban street. Way too hippie for 1955. And dancing in the lawn sprinkler's spray in her house dress. I had a physical reaction to that film just now when a slideshow of scenes from the film flashed on the screen: GAK!!! It's title is even over the edge in the corn factor.


Possibly my reaction to the film is a result of seeing it an attempt to make an art film by people whose careers have been making commercial films. This looked like an attempt to make a commercial art film. It worked more or less. It's a box office and critical hit, but it seems like guns and butter--if you're going to do art, can't be too caught up in the commercial; if you're doing commercial, you can't give much space to art. This one attempted commercial art, and it was evidently a success commercially. I doubt it will get much attention as an art film. I can't help but think of its evocative,
suggestive style as Hollywood Hippie. The next generation of Hollywood's hip pot smokers, the Sean Penn, Willie Nelson generation. And Sean Penn's nose didn't match the nose of the kid that grew up into him. A National Geographic nature and cosmos extravaganza for the first hour, then a Southern gothic story in Waco, Texas, 1955, finalizing in desert, glass and steel skyscrapers, a cast of hundreds in the final scene walking about like zombies on a beach. The rare moments it engaged me, it repelled me.


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