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The Tree Of Life
Photo: Fox Searchlight

The Tree Of Life, Terrence Malick’s symphonically ambitious rumination on his ’50s Texas childhood and overall place in the cosmos, is coming to the Criterion Collection. That’s no surprise, considering that the storied deluxe video label has already produced DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the reclusive filmmaker’s first four features: Badlands, Days Of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The New World. But according to Variety, Criterion’s edition (which currently has no release date) will include both the original version of the film, and a new cut that’s a whopping 50 minutes longer.

The film, which took three years to complete and marks the transition point from Malick’s post-comeback historical reveries and his recent (and more uneven) run of autobiographical abstractions, was released to acclaim in 2011, winning the Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and earning an unlikely Oscar nomination for Best Picture. (In 2015, this fine publication named it the third best film of the decade so far.) At its center is a boy’s relationship to his stern father (Brad Pitt) and affectionate mother (Jessica Chastain, then a complete unknown), which resonates both into the present day, with Sean Penn playing the protagonist as a grown-up, and into the evolutionary past. (There are dinosaurs.)

Like many of the director’s films, The Tree Of Life was significantly improvised, and over a million feet of 35mm film were shot by Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki during production. Obviously, both versions of the film are director’s cuts, though the new one—which Criterion is reportedly financing themselves—will fill in many of the ellipses in the family narrative, drawing the parents’ own upbringings into the story and adding more material with Penn’s grown-up character. Though it will reportedly leave the film’s special-effects-heavy “creation” sequence untouched, the article mentions a “major natural catastrophe that serves as a kind of centerpiece” in the longer version. According to Variety, Malick spent the better part of a year working on the new cut.


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