When the Cannes lineup was announced last week, festival director Thierry Fremaux all but reserved a slot for Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life.” Cannes’ organizers, he said, were “crossing our fingers” that Malick’s film, which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, would be finished in time for the May 12-23 fest.
Unsurprisingly, it’s looking less and less likely that Malick has any interest in finishing the film in time for Cannes.
On Monday, Awards Daily posted some comments – which Sasha Stone found buried in a thread about Vincent Gallo on the Slashfilm website – from a staffer at a visual effects house who claims to be working on the film, or on an IMAX documentary about the film. (Given Malick’s notorious penchant for secrecy, the effects staffer is not quite sure which.)
According to the post, the mysterious film, which has been described as a 1950s period piece and a "loss of innocence" journey, but which may also include scenes of prehistoric life on Earth, is “97 percent” done.
Additional news: It’s been shown to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, among others; it’s very good (“the best film of his since ‘Badlands,” says one viewer); and it will not be finished in time for Cannes, for technical reasons.
I heard something similar last week from someone close to the production. While the Cannes jury did see a cut of the film, which is close to being finished, reportedly the famously painstaking Malick wants to keep working on the movie, and the film’s producers are not trying to get him to finish it in time for Cannes.
Instead, I hear that everyone involved is looking down the road, most likely to fall festivals like Toronto, Venice and Telluride.
The lesson, says my source, was learned with Malick’s film “The Thin Red Line,” which the director apparently felt pressured to turn in sooner than he wanted. That film was given a limited, Oscar-qualifying release at Christmas 1998, and then a wider release in January 1999.
Though the film received positive reviews and landed seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, it did not win any Academy Awards. It only made about $36 million at the boxoffice, significantly less than its production cost.
“The feeling is that they’re not going to rush him this time around,” says the source. “They’re not even thinking about Cannes anymore.”
Malick re-edited his last film, 2005's "The New World," even after its initial release.