I’m told by a reliable source that “no decision” has been made about when to release Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. I had gotten in touch after Todd McCarthy‘s stunning prediction yesterday that Malick’s long-delayed film probably wont be out this year and may not be seen until next May’s Cannes Film Festival. McCarthy is “speculating,” the source said.
Sure, of course. McCarthy said as much yesterday. And yet I’ve known McCarthy for many years and he’s no shoot-from-the-hipper. He’s a very careful and prudent fellow, and I can’t imagine he’d write something like this unless he had fairly good cause to suspect as much. Terrence Malick is a gentle loon who cares nothing about what the industry thinks or wants. It’s well within his psychological perimeter to delay this Sean Penn-Brad Pitt film for several more months.
So “no decisions,” okay, but have there ever been any decisions made about anything regarding The Tree of Life other than to keep working on it?
Qualification: Please notice my decision to refer to Malick as a “gentle loon” rather than a barking one. Several years ago a British journalist playfully described Stanley Kubrick as a loon who primarily barked. Obviously a flip characterization, but the term “barking” didn’t seem totally ridiculous as it alluded to an aggressive tendency — assertive, dogged, relentless — that echoed Kubrick’s legendary approach to filmmaking. Malick is described by all as a quiet man, a man of refinement and thought. But he also seems indifferent to the requests and demands of the marketplace that he’s ostensibly interested in serving. Indifferent to the point of not caring, I mean. You want that? You’re not going to get it.
When I spoke with Malick on the phone in the mid ’90s he was entirely polite and yet absolutely firm about not engaging in even the most inconsequential small talk. I felt a curious tremor from this resolve. A vibration that felt more odd than normal. I decided then and there that Malick is not quite of this earth. Certainly not in a Joe Schmoe way. He’s here, of course, but much of what he’s about is “somewhere else,” so to speak. But then I’m like that. The key thing is that Malick always strikes people as kindly and patient and likable, hence the term “gentle loon.” Which basically means “nuts but in a nice way.”
Brrrrring! Brrrring! Seven or eight rings. Finally someone picks up. The voice of an older woman. Crisp and direct like a bank officer, not like a maid or a neighbor: “Hello?”
Electric rush in the blood. This is it! Q: “Hello, is Mr. Sasquatch in, please?” A: “I’m sorry, but he’s not available right now. May I take a message?” Q: “Well, sure….but uhm, are you saying he’s not in the office or he’s location-scouting in Bartlesville or…?” A: “Mr. Sasquatch is just not available. I’ll be happy to take a message.” Q: “Would you tell Mr. Sasquatch that I’m getting more and more frustrated and angry, to be honest, that he won’t stop diddling around on The Tree of Life?” A: “Yes, I can pass that message along to Mr. Sasquatch. Would you like to leave a name and number?”