Much-anticipated 'Tree of Life' divides Cannes crowd

16th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" finally got to Cannes on Monday, dividing festival-goers with its spectacular photography but pensive, deeply religious storyline.

Loud boos clashed with respectful applause at the end of a morning press screening for one of the most highly anticipated films at the world's biggest film festival, which is going into its final week.

"It's about religion, nature and people -- American people," one viewer told AFP on the way out, summing up the coming-of-age tale starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain set mostly in Waco, Texas in the 1950s.

Malick was missing at the start of a late-morning screening, leaving producer Sarah Green to explain: "Mr Malick is very shy, but I believe his work speaks for him."

"The Tree of Life" -- one of 20 films in competition for the Palme d'Or -- had been on track to screen in Cannes last year, only to be withdrawn by Malick and its producers at the last minute.

Billed as a "thought-provoking film experience" in its production notes, and many years in the making, "The Tree of Life" is only the fifth work from the director of "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line".

Pitt plays the emotionally uptight navy veteran and father of three boys who is never seen talking with his house-bound wife, played by Chastain, apart from a violent argument.

Penn portrays the eldest son as a grown-up; he and Pitt only appear together on screen in a seaside family reunion scene.

Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler and Tye Seridan are the young sons, all of whom look as if they could have been Pitt's real-life boys.

Co-starring are many, many trees -- often filmed in cathedral-like mood-setting scenes -- and the sun, which always turns up in just the right spot over and over again.

© 2011 AFP

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