Archive for the ‘Tree of Life’ Category

SatMar201210

Travels with Oscar, Smithville TX shines

 

This article is from the Orange County Register, Feb 23, 2012

 

Best Picture town: Smithville, Texas, in “The Tree of Life

People tend to either think Terrence Malick is one of the few artists left working in film, or the maker of insufferably obtuse movies. I have to admit I’m conflicted.

Though I’m a big military history buff, I couldn’t endure the endless shots of waving grass in “The Thin Red Line” and dropped out about 45 minutes into it. I know a lot of people didn’t make it that long into “The Tree of Life,” Malick’s defiantly nonnarrative rumination on the battle between the states of grace and nature over endless time. The opening sequences of the creation of the universe (dinosaurs?) and the corner of the world where Brad Pitt and family will live out their lives feel a lot like the start of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Maybe “The Tree of Life” just hit me at the right moment – it’s my favorite movie of the year. Battling congestion one late night in January, I popped “Tree of Life” into the DVD player. Maybe it was the combination: cold medicine, alone, dark and quiet house, Blu-ray on high-definition TV. I couldn’t take my eyes away.

The heart of the film is the town where Pitt alternately hugs and bullies his boys. I was transfixed by the simple beauty of the town – the trees, the houses, the shadows, the road and the faces. At the end of the movie, I scrambled to find where the film was shot. Though some shots were done in other parts of Texas, the core of the story is told in Smithville, just outside of Austin. I’ve explored the Hill Country west and north of Austin but never ventured to the east. The town of wide streets and an old-style downtown has been featured before, in “Hope Floats.” I want to go, though I don’t know what I’ll do when I get there or what I would see. Just life, I guess. Sounds like a Malick film.

P.S. Our B&B, the Katy House is eight blocks from the house used in “Tree of Life”  The Smithville Chamber has a new brochure listing most of the places in town used in the movies filmed in Smithville.


FriFeb201224

Review of Malick’s Tree of Life, filmed in Smithville

Back Stage

SASA MAJUMA

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?
The Tree of Life (2011) is one of the best films from last year. It is being shown at the Gaborone Film Society tonight at 7 pm atMaru-a-PulaSchool in the A/V Centre. It is by the great director Terrence Malick who only makes about one film every decade.

He is famous for Badlands(1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (2005). With The Tree of Life his approach has changed: he currently has four new films in production.
 
At the 64th Cannes International Film Festival The Tree of Life swept the Palme D’Or (but not without boos, jeers and great applause from a divided public). The line that divides reactions to this film is strong for it begins with the cosmos, the Supreme Being, the meaning of life, birth and death, and how life may be lived.

The catcalls come from viewers who want modern entertainment, not Great Issues. Nick Pinkerton writing in The Village Voice says of Malick that, He’s one of the few American filmmakers operating on the multiplex scale who makes movies feel like undiscovered country.

In Genesis, 3:22-24 in the Garden of Eden the tree of life has fruits that give eternal life. In science the image is used to represent the evolutionary divergence of all living creatures.

In Kabalism the spheres of life or the 10 attributes of the infinite belong to the tree of life. This film spends considerable time probing images of the past. From the Hubble telescope, the birth of the universe is observed. At one point the earth belonged to the dinosaurs (an injured plesiosaur contemplates his wounding), then they were extinct.

“I made him feel shame …how did I lose you?  Mother was I false to you? …. Where were you? Who are we to you? 
  From the Red Centre, to the nebulae of outer space, from eruptions, to the feeding frenzy of circling hammerheads and Saturn’s rings, We cry to you, my soul, my son”. 

Light of my life I search for you. At the start and in conclusion the audience can see only a flickering flame Ð is this the beginning and end of our universe?

The creation leads us to a family inWaco,Texas, in the 1950s Ð yes, the same town of the famous massacre, but there is no link established between it and this movie. It was actually filmed in Smithville, nearAustin,Texas.

A gentle, warm, loving Mother O’Brien (acted by Jessica Chastain, inGaboronepreviously in The Help in Texas Killing Fields, The Debt and Wilde Salome) is the lodestone for her three sons. Her path is the opposite of her husband’s. “Love everyone. Love every leaf, every ray of light,” she tells her sons.

The demanding, harsh and judgemental father O’Brien (played by Brad Pitt) imparts survival lessons that are intended to promote individualism, competition, and Looking Out For No. 1. Pass the butter please, Sir.  

O’Brien disciplines his sons like the family was an ancient military camp and the offspring the uncouth foot soldiers. 

They must learn how to avoid being bullied, to fight back, and to master the art of self-defence, to face DDT spray without flinching. Do you love your father? Yes, Sir. His message to his sons is one of loyalty and obedience coloured by cunning. The world lives by trickery … if you want to succeed, you can’t be too good.

As they grow a little older, Number One, Jack (played by Hunter McCracken) becomes a bully with his two younger brothers R L and Steve (Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan). He also articulates his rebellion and his hostility against his father’s repressive regime.

“You can hit me if you want.” O’Brien tells Jack, I want you to grow up strong, be your own boss. Jack becomes the axis of the film. He even tries to talk to God. Can we hear the answers?

O’Brien has 25 patents, a thankless job, that comes to an end, loves classical music, but is a failed musician. His sense of failure permeates the film. He wants more for his sons. To accompany its unfamiliar images The Tree of Life is filled by some of the best In music by Bach, Couperin, Mozart, Mahler, Smetana, Gorecki, Respighi, Holst and others.

To find the young actors, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan and Hunter McCracken, who play the three preadolescent brothers, months were spent searching and 10,000c non-professional applicants interviewed. The results are a credit to this prolonged search.

Sean Penn gives a taut portrayal of the troubled first son, Jack, now an adult, who struggles to find the best in his harsh, disciplinarian father. As an actor he somehow expected more. He is quoted as saying: I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read.

A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.

The adult Jack keeps looking back on his past. One of his younger brothers has died. He is working as an architect in a glass skyscraper in downtownHouston,Texas(little is really explained about who he has become, as it is his remembered past that occupies the screen).

Still, this is a film about mysteries, well worth watching and debating.  It is a poetic movie, but you don’t have to be a poet or a true believer to watch it.

Thus may be The Tree of Life, but in this resurrection it is the American suburb of half a century ago with its green lawns, cars to wash, and sibling rivalry to be transcended. It is a coming-of-age story with a difference. 

The Tree of Life is two hours and 13 minutes long. It is rated 12+. The director is Terrence Malick who also wrote the script. The cinematographer is Emmanuel Lubezk. The editor is Mark Yosikawa. The music is both by and arranged by Alexandre Desplat. 
sasa_majuma@yahoo.co.uk

(our bed and breakfast, the Katy House is 10 blocks from the home used in Tree of Life. Sallie Blalock)

 


TueJun201121

Smithville, TX Goes Hollywood

 Who would have thought that we would get to meet movie stars and have them stay in our Bed and Breakfast?  Check out  this new  article from the Houston Chronicle. I love the last line: “They are beyond film-friendly,” Patterson says. “There’s something almost magical about filming in Smithville.”

Texas’ quaint Smithville goes Hollywood

By MELANIE WARNER SPENCER
Copyright 2011, HOUSTON CHRONICLE

June 21, 2011, 12:09AM

 Road trippers, business travelers and other rambling types who have driven the stretch of highway between Houston and Austin likely have spied the big “Smithville, Home of Hope Floats sign off of Texas 71. Despite the town’s proud history with the 1998 Sandra Bullock movie, Smithville likely isn’t the first place to spring to mind when most people think about Texas film. Since 2008, however, when Texas writer/director Terrence Malick shot much of his Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or award-winning opus The Tree of Life in Smithville, the sleepy hamlet has served as the backdrop for nine feature films and a variety of shorts, commercials and Web series. “It’s a beautiful town,” says John Patterson, location manager for The Tree of Life. “For six weeks, we filmed in one neighborhood. Part of the idea was having a neighborhood in the ’50s where the boys could run yard to yard without fences and without knowing whose yard they are in.”The film is set in the Midwest and focuses on the relationship of the eldest of three sons, Jack (played by Sean Penn), with his father (Brad Pitt). It tackles questions about relationships, faith, innocence lost and the meaning of life. Smithville offers a wealth of virtually untouched ’50s-era architecture, as well as Victorian, ’60s, ’70s and contemporary suburban streetscapes.The former made it a natural location for the movie, but according to Patterson, Smithville had much more to offer than just a great look. “We really got to know the town,” Patterson says. “Some of the cast and crew lived right in town and rented houses and rode their bikes to the set. It’s a pretty unique way to make a film.” Rather than using the ubiquitous trucks and trailers for hair and makeup, wardrobe and stars dressing rooms, they rented out a house for each department or actor to use as a base. While logistics and location are key, there is one thing that comes up every time you talk to a person who has worked on a film in Smithville: “It comes down to the people who live there,” Patterson says. “They all know it’s a special place. They are happy to be there and happy to show it off.” Quenby Iandiorio, a wardrobe supervisor and set costumer who moved to Austin from Los Angeles in 2010, has worked on three movies in Smithville in the past year: Beneath the Darkness, a thriller starring Dennis Quaid; Doonby, a drama featuring John Schneider; and Natural Selection, a dark comedy starring Rachael Harris by writer-director and Houston-native Robbie Pickering.The latter swept Austin’s South by Southwest film festival in March, nabbing the Grand Jury Prize for narrative feature filmmaking, the festival Audience Award and jury prizes for music, editing and screenplay, as well as breakthrough performance honors for Harris and Matt O’Leary. Iandiorio has both commuted to Smithville and lived there during production. (Beneath the Darkness is due in theaters in October; Doonby and Natural Selection are awaiting distribution deals.)”I totally dug it,” Iandiorio says. “It was a small town, and it’s really easy to get to work every day and change locations. When I was living there, it was magnificent. To be able to ride your bike to set blew my mind, coming from L.A.”While it was at times challenging to find clothing at the last minute, Iandiorio says it’s just part of doing this kind of work in Central Texas. “No matter how much you prepare for a trip, something comes up,” Iandiorio says. “Even in Austin there aren’t the resources that I’m used to having (in L.A.). It’s more challenging to get what the director wants if it’s not already in your collection. But nobody is going to have everything. … You have to shop for it and go secondhand and vintage.”Echoing Patterson’s sentiments, Iandiorio says it’s all about the residents, who are quick to assist the crew and for whom hometown hospitality is matter-of-fact. “Everyone lends themselves to the production,” Iandiorio says. “The small filmmakers wouldn’t be able to do these productions without their assistance. Film commissioner Sheila Tamble really rolls out the red carpet for people and opens up her house. Her husband’s cooking is amazing. Robert would cook for 70 people for lunch at night when we are shooting.” For Tamble, a Smithville native and real estate broker who got into the business quite by accident after showing a house to Malick prior to the shooting of The Tree of Life, it’s about bringing something unique to her community. “What I like is exposing our youth to different opportunities,” Tamble says. “They use the kids a lot in the films. They see the hair, the wardrobe. Our school district, like a lot all over Texas, can’t afford the arts. It’s the best way to show the children up front what it is.”Tamble and other enterprising community leaders in Smithville also recognize the economic benefits of being a film-friendly community. They have made permitting, security and other processes and procedures quick and easy for filmmakers. The mayor allows crews to office out of and hold casting calls at City Hall, and the police department is available to lead directors through the proper steps of a crime scene investigation. In return, thousands of movie-making dollars flood into the town and into the hands of its business owners and residents, who rent out their businesses, homes and guesthouses to crews. They have been known to lend or lease personal property, including planes, vehicles, a bottle of champagne in the middle of the night, farm equipment and even livestock to productions. Tamble’s rooster, Colonel Sanders struts his stuff in Doonby and Five Time Champion. (The latter was an indie favorite at SXSW and Dallas film festivals.)Local nonprofits reap the benefits from the industry, too. Tamble says producers from The Tree of Life, donated fruit trees to the community gardens. During the filming of Beneath the Darkness, Quaid participated in a Blue Santa benefit that raised more than $10,000. And Darkness director Martin Guigui is planning to return in October for the Smithville Music Festival. “The economic impact is something we see more because we are a small community,” Tamble says. “Tree of Life’s impact was about $725,000, not including what cast and crew spent on their own time.”The chamber of commerce has also gotten in on the action, creating a city map that pinpoints locations from the various movies and revamping its website, http://www.smithvilletx.org/, to include up-to-date details on current and past movies. Its tagline is: “A film-, family- and business-friendly community.” “They are beyond film-friendly,” Patterson says. “There’s something almost magical about filming in Smithville.”

melanie.spencer@chron.com
Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/7618946.html#ixzz1Pwdol9q9


TueMay201124

Smithville, TX is proud of “Tree of Life”

Here is a wonderful review of  “Tree of Life.”  Our little town, Smithville  has had movies filmed here before.  The first was “Hope Floats.”  Reading the review below  makes me want to see the movie at least twice.  And I wish we didn’t have to wait till June 3rd.  We had the three boys that played the three brothers in movie,  and their families,  stay with us at our Bed and Breakfast last September when they came to town again.  For more info. on Smithville visit the Chamber page at http://www.smithvilletx.org/   and visit our web page at http://www.katyhouse.com

This review is from the web site: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/49760

Nordling here.

Audiences who engage with Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE may find that it will be impossible to watch without bringing their own personal history, their emotional baggage, their own family experiences with them to the film.  The film’s considerable power comes from Malick’s ability to go to a universal place and yet still make the film seem very personal and relevant to each individual who sees it.  It is possible to view the film empirically.  Just from the one viewing that I had, I feel it is a masterwork, but it resonates with me with such force that I find myself unable to think about the film without it being filtered by my own life experiences.  I do not think I will be the only one who feels that way about this film.

THE TREE OF LIFE is absolutely not for everyone.  It’s quiet, contemplative, and it rewards patience and understanding.  Many moviegoers will flat out hate it – they will hate Malick’s refusal to tell his story with a conventional narrative; they will hate Malick’s flights-of-fancy that will come off to some as incredibly indulgent; they will hate the fact that Malick devotes most of the film to a portrait of a family in small-town 1950s Texas and think that it is not a subject deserving of so much time and attention. The criticisms put against this film – it’s indulgent, pretentious, too long – could be valid for a moviegoer unused to working with a film the way Malick requires.  The film is as full and as long as Malick needs it to be; critics of the length remind me of AMADEUS’s Mozart asking which notes he should take out of his opera.  He has a journey in mind, and he will not skip any step, because as so many have said before, the point isn’t about where you arrive but how you got there.  But Malick tells this story the only way he can, and how audiences respond to it is very much what the movie is about, as opposed to any kind of linear narrative path.

We begin with a Bible verse of Job 38: 4, 7 – “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  But the film doesn’t approach religion from a strictly Christian perspective (although its influence on Malick is clear).  The film’s theme is specified in the opening dialogue from Mrs. O’Brien – “There are two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow.”  Nature, we are told, is selfish and full of itself.  Grace is love, and the giving of oneself to a higher calling or power.  From there we are taken on a journey through the very foundations of the universe, and into the inner workings of the human heart.  Malick’s film suggests that the difference is miniscule.

Each scene in THE TREE OF LIFE doesn’t play out in a traditional narrative sense – we are either in someone’s inner imaginings, or we are dropped into a remembrance without any pretense.  However, the film is not without plot.  Instead of laying out each scene with a narrative precision, the film puts us in the emotional perspective of the character.  This film isn’t so much watched as it is lived through.  Brad Pitt plays domineering but loving Mr. O’Brien, who is a strict taskmaster to his children and seems unable to express into words his deep, stirring inner feelings.  On the other end of the spectrum is Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) who isn’t so much a character as she is an ideal of motherhood.   Jack (Hunter McCracken as a child, Sean Pennas an adult) is very much the product of these two powerful figures in his life.  The film is bookended by modern day sequences in Houston – and I’ve never seen Houston look as beautiful as how Emmanuel Lubezki shoots it here, all glass and sunlight – as Jack remembers his conflicted youth, and the loss of his brother.  In the film’s opening, Mrs. O’Brien receives a letter, a telegram that shatters the O’Briens – the death of their child R.L. (Laramie Eppler, who looks uncannily like Pitt) when he is 19.  It is assumed, because of the time and the manner of the telegram that he dies in Vietnam, but I think Malick deliberately left this vague, especially in today’s present circumstances.  It doesn’t matter how he died – what matters is that his death sends the family into a deep questioning of their faith and why it happened.  Mrs. O’Brien, in particular, takes R.L.’s death hard, asking God why, and receiving little comfort.  

It’s in this part of the film that Malick takes us into the depths of Creation and into the beginnings of life on Earth.  Audiences may struggle with the meaning behind it, but that’s the point – when we are given difficult moments in our lives, we question why, and our thoughts may turn to the very foundations of the universe to find our answer.  This 20-minute sequence takes us from the creation of everything to the pool of water where the first life takes shape, to dinosaurs on the beach and in a forest, and in all of this we are shown the aspects of Mrs. O’Brien’s argument of nature and grace.  Huge in scope, Malick himself seems to search for the truth as much as Mrs. O’Brien.  Nature can be cruel, as demonstrated in a sequence where two dinosaurs meet in a forest, one dinosaur putting his heel to the other, fallen dinosaur’s head, almost teasing, much like a brother teases his younger. 

From these origins of the world we go to Waco, Texas, and a loving couple, as they fall in love and have children.  The three O’Brien boys, Jack, R.L., and Steve (Tye Sheridan), behave as children do – they play, they do their father’s bidding, they grow.  R.L., especially, seems a sensitive youth, into music (in one of my favorite scenes of the film R.L. sits on the porch outside playing guitar as his father quietly accompanies him on the piano).  The youngest, Steve, is quiet and unassuming.  But it is Jack, the oldest, who is the most tempestuous, questioning his father’s authority and his own place in the world.  The film portrays childhood wonderfully and truthfully – never has a film captured quite so well what it is like to be a young boy with the infinite summer ahead of him.  In the meantime, Mr. O’Brien is struggling; feeling rejected by his peers and neighbors, he is increasingly tougher on his children as they grow older.  In his rebellious nature, Jack starts to push back, and this becomes the central conflict of the film.  Will Jack go the way of nature, or of grace?  Is he his father’s son, or his mother’s, or both?

Brad Pitt is amazing in his performance.  It is a simplification to say that he’s a simple abusive father.  For Mr. O’Brien, his children are his hope to achieve in ways that he has not, and he truly loves them.  At the same time, every moment of anger pushes them further and further away, and he is incapable of articulating the storm of emotion within him.  Jessica Chastain is terrific as well, although as I said, her character is a very broad portrait of motherhood as opposed to anything specific.  She seems to live to serve her husband, and only when he is gone away on a trip that she comes to life with the children, playing and enjoying life.  Young Hunter McCracken’s Jack doesn’t feel like a performance – it feels like a life.  His curiosity, his imagination, and his love for his family all shine through.  It is an entirely genuine performance.  Sean Penn isn’t in it much, but his performance is essential as a touchstone to the audience, especially in the film’s ending, which will either send filmgoers out either enraptured or just confused.  I felt that the ending was Malick’s way of making peace with loss, and found it very effective.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s camerawork is transcendent.  It’s one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen.  The way he captures the light, the angles, and the playful movement – it’s cinematography on a level that seems larger than any accolades that could be thrown at it.  Alexandre Desplat’s score is triumphant, and as the focus of the film shifts from cosmic to intimate in a breath’s time, his music accentuates the shift and stays cohesive.  The effects work of the Creation sequence is immaculate – Douglas Trumbull of 2001 and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was a consultant on the visual effects, and it shows.  There is a real weight to each vision, and as we go from the very foundations of the universe to present day Texas, it feels effortless.

But it is Terrence Malick, the master filmmaker, who creates something truly amazing with THE TREE OF LIFE.  The film is a prayer, without being any specific religion (although the underpinnings seem decidedly Christian).  The film’s portrayals of spirituality and our relationship to the universe and each other are very universal, and yet, I felt the film was intensely specific to my own life.  I imagine my experience with THE TREE OF LIFE will not be unique.  The film is both epic and intimate, both grandiose and personal, and challenging to the extreme.  There will be those who will not be open to what the film offers.  Because the film refuses to follow a traditional narrative, because the film wears its emotions on its sleeve, and because of the length, if you are not a diehard film fan, willing to take risks, I cannot recommend this film.  As for me, I’ve seen it once, and I know I’ll be seeing it again.  This summer will be full of action films, and superhero films, big budget effects extravaganzas that will promise an experience never seen before.  But if any come close to what Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE does, then they may have something to brag about.  It is a difficult film, an ambitious film, and not for the casual filmgoer.  THE TREE OF LIFE, for any true film fan, must be seen on the biggest screen that can be found.  It is a celebration of life, hope, family, and a singular, transformative film experience.

Nordling, out.


SunMay201122

“Tree of Life” wins at Cannes Film Festival

Breaking news: Here is a blog about “Tree of Life”.  Part of the movie was filmed here in Smithville, Texas, about 10 blocks from our Bed and Breakfast.  Most of Smithville will be in Austin to see the movie the first week it is out.  Read below about “Tree of Life” at the Cannes Film Festival.  I wish I had been there!  For more information on the Katy House Bed and Breakfast visit http://www.katyhouse.com/ or call (512) 237-4262.

Austin360 blogs

Director Malick wins Palme d’Or at Cannes for ‘Tree of Life’

By Charles Ealy | Sunday, May 22, 2011, 01:09 PM

CANNES, France — Austin director Terrence Malick  became the first Texan ever to win the top prize, the Palme d’Or, at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, for his ambitious, cosmic “The Tree of Life.”

The movie centers on a family in 1950s Waco, includes about a 20-minute segment that focuses on the birth of the universe and has been called a Texan “2001,” a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Malick, who does not make public appearances, did not show up at the Palais to accept the award, but two of his producers did. “He remains notoriously, infamously shy but quite humble,” said producer Bill Pohlad.

When the movie premiered Monday, it received a mixed reaction from the press, but support for the film, which was made in Smithville and Austin, has been growing in recent days. It stars Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn.


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