TREE OF LIFE (Lightbox) – Shortly after it opened at Cannes, I read about how unusual its reception was; with a pretty divided audience; people BOOED? Reviews called it pretentious, full of itself, and even worse. Reviewers went to lengths describing how this was a film about faith in the religious sense… I stopped reading up on the film past that; I didn’t want to walk into the film with too many preconceptions.
I can see the parallels to religion in the way some of the scenes come together – more in the way that ENTER THE VOID had religious experiences in the drug affected and dying mind of the protagonist. I’m left with the impression that it’s more about memory than faith; about how fragile and untrustworthy memory is.
The film is told through the memories of Jack, and it jumps, sometimes apparently quite randomly between scenes in space and time. There’s no story being told per se; there’s a story implied, but never spoken. The memories pile up in layers to flesh out these characters with a subtle nudge here and a tweak there. One grain of sand at a time… The characters slowly develop, more poetry than prose.
There are sequences that show the universe, planets and stars forming, and eventually life emerging on earth. There are volcanoes, primordial ooze, and eventually dinosaurs. I initially had a problem with the dinosaur appearing to show empathy to a wounded potential lunch source, but when I see it as a product of Jack’s wandering mind it fits; the predator / prey angle even works somewhat to parallel how he feels about his relationship with his father.
The final bit of the film in the desert and on the beach… I’m not at all sure what is happening there. That’s the problem with poetry; it’s often wide open to interpretation. Did Jack die? Is that why he’s meeting his mother and brothers again? Why are Father’s hands suddenly so old when Mother greets him? I think this is also happening in Jack’s head as he lays dying, imagining meeting them all again one last time… He walks through a door in the middle of the desert…. Dying?
WEST SIDE STORY (Lightbox) – Bought a 3-pack of tickets to TIFF Lightbox’s Summer of 70mm from Wag Jag. They’re only showing three films, and at member rates, the Wag Jag price for all three was about the same as the cost of the two I was planning on seeing anyway. So, WEST SIDE STORY was something of a freebie, as I was planning to see LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and SPARTACUS anyway.
Yes, it’s a musical. Yes, it’s about two street gangs that wouldn’t scare toddlers with their leaps and high kicks. I think the casting agents were playing pretty loose with who they were casting as Puerto Rican… I’d be surprised if anyone on the cast even knows anyone from Puerto Rico.
GOLIATH (Netflix) – A bit of a FALLING DOWN tribute, but set off with the disappearance of a cat. A man loses everything that gave him any sort of stability; he gets a divorce, gets demoted for no obvious reason to a job much beneath him, and his cat disappears. There’s a registered sex offender without a larynx and management at work who need to take acting lessons desperately. I’m not really sure what I think about this film, and I’m not really sure what the film-makers would think of it either.