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The Tree of Life [Blu-ray]
(Terrence Malick, 2011)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Cottonwood Pictures
Video: 20th Century Fox / Criterion Collection - Spine # 942
Region: FREE!/ Region 'A'-locked (as verified by the Region FREE modified Oppo)
Runtime: 2:18:54.325 / Theatrical: 2:19:05.003 / Extended: 3:08:41.310
Disc Size: 49,346,793,140 bytes / Th: 48,220,568,321 bytes / Extended: 49,867,188,441 bytes
Feature Size: 43,112,325,120 bytes / Th: 37,304,137,728 bytes / Extended: 49,651,857,408 bytes
Video Bitrate: 33.72 Mbps / 30.45 Mbps / 30.00 Mbps
Chapters: 25/ 22 (both)
Case: Standard Blu-ray case/ Transparent case
Release date: October 11th, 2011 / August 28th, 2018
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 5306 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 5306 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Th: DTS-HD Master Audio English 3498 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3498 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Extended: DTS-HD Master Audio English 3295 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz
/ 3295 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps /
English (SDH), Spanish, none / English (SDH), none
•Exploring The Tree of Life (29:56 in 1080P)
•'Theatrical Trailer (2:08 in 1080P)
Separate DVD disc and Digital copy disc included
extended version of the film featuring an additional fifty
minutes of footage
Description: The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.
Four decades into an already legendary career, Terrence Malick realized his most rapturous vision to date, tracing a story of childhood, wonder, and grief to the outer limits of time and space. Reaching back to the dawn of creation, Malick sets a story of boyhood memories on a universal scale, charting the coming of age of an awestruck child (newcomer Hunter McCracken) in Texas in the 1950s, as he learns to navigate the extremes of nature and grace represented by his bitter, often tyrannical father (Brad Pitt) and his ethereal, nurturing mother (Jessica Chastain, in her breakout role). Shot with nimble attention to life’s most fleeting moments by Emmanuel Lubezki, the Palme d’Or–winning The Tree of Life marks the intimately personal, cosmically ambitious culmination of Malick’s singular approach to filmmaking.
There are very few films I can think of that convey the changing interior weather of a child’s mind with such fidelity and sensitivity. Nor are there many that penetrate so deeply into the currents of feeling that bind and separate the members of a family. So much is conveyed — about the tension and tenderness within the O’Brien marriage, about the frustrations that dent their happiness, about the volatility of the bonds between siblings — but without any of the usual architecture of dramatic exposition. One shot flows into another, whispered voice-over displaces dialogue, and an almost perfect domestic narrative takes shape, anchored in three extraordinarily graceful performances: Mr. Pitt, Ms. Chastain and, above all, Hunter McCracken, a first-timer who brings us inside young Jack’s restless, itching skin.Excerpt from A.O. Scott at the NY Times located HERE
Throughout his magnum opus The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick
hopscotches between past and present, from the birth of our planet to a
slice of '50s Americana, where a young boy is shaped by his mother's
"grace" and his father's "nature"—opposing influences that will
continue, for time immemorial, to course and pummel their way through
his consciousness with the force of an exploding supernova. He is, like
all of us, less than a blip in the universe's timeline, and for the
grownup Jack (Sean Penn)—who waltzes with depressing resignation through
the chilly manse he shares with a woman he keeps at arm's length, the
steely tower where he does business, and the landscape of the
afterlife—this is an admission of human inconsequence.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
A while back I received an email requesting a 'Top 10 Blu-ray list' of my favorite of the new medium. Any mental list I could create is always in flux. But today and perhaps this year my number one spot would be an easy choice - The Tree of Life. The appreciation is always a balance between an adept 1080P transfer and the specific film's visual attributes. In this latter regard The Tree of Life eclipses all in my recorded memory. With a high bitrate the dual-layered disc gave me a reference viewing - a large part due to the aural benefits (discussed below.) This may be the most beautifully shot film I can recall since the Blu-ray format evolved - and appropriately the image quality is... quite perfect. Grain is very fine, detail impressive and colors appear consistent and authentic supporting the exquisite art direction and interesting camera angles. There is nothing to do but allow the film's rich presentation to wash over you - there is no point seeing this in the enclosed NTSC DVD. If ever there was a film to see, in your home theater, in Blu-ray - this is it.
The Criterion is a double Blu-ray package and is described as a "New 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Terrence Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki". It includes both the theatrical cut of the film and a new extended version of the film featuring an additional fifty minutes of footage. I was surprised to see that the extended cut has some striking differences in the image quality including a notable amount of additional information in the frame and a different color palette.
Firstly, the 4K-restored Theatrical cut advances in detail over the 2011 Twenty Century Fox 1080P transfer in close-ups (grain in Brad Pitt's face). For most viewers this won't be overwhelmingly noticeable but despite a slightly lower bitrate the Criterion also looks marginally superior in-motion. It has a sliver more information on the right edge. It supports the same color scheme as the older Blu-ray.
The Extended cut has the more interesting differences, including the aforementioned additional information in the frame (mostly on the top, left and right sides of the frame) and the color shift to warmer skin tones and, often deeper, hues (see Sean Penn's jacket in the elevator.) It is alone on the second dual-layered Blu-ray and has the same bitrate as the first disc transfer. It may be more blue and less green? The contrast frequently looks superior with more pure whites and darker black levels. I believe that I liked the Extended appearance more than the other two HD presentations. The frame seems to have opened-up and the image is hypnotic with often the perception of more depth. This is a significant upside to the Criterion package over Blu-rays of the past.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
More 20th Century Fox - Region FREE Blu-ray Captures
More Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Captures
The sound track may share an equally lauded evaluation of the film's impact and the DTS-HD Master 7.1 at a whopping 5306 kbps is also reference quality. From John Tavener and Mother Thekla's “Funeral Canticle” and “Resurrection in Hades” through Gustav Mahler's “Symphony No. 1”, Zbigniew Preisner's “Lacrimosa 2”, Górecki (recall the film Fearless), Mussorgsky, Schumann, Mozart and J.S Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor plus much more - the music scales heights my system had not yet reached until The Tree of Life 'expressed' them. The audio transfer has solid range with rumbling depth (in 'The Creation' sequence) and plenty of subtle separations. Truly this is an amazing mix that will induce repeat spins in your home theater. In a word; 'Magnificent!'. There are optional English (SDH) or Spanish subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
For both cuts Criterion use robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround tracks (24-bit). It seems to have a similar impressive depth as the Fox audio transfer as well as some deft separations. I have nothing but positive things to say about the audio. It still sounds brilliant on both Criterion Blu-rays which both offer optional English subtitles. It is Region 'A'-locked.
Malick's most ambitious film offers no commentary or piecemeal analyzing but has a 1/2 hour featurette entitled Exploring The Tree of Life. It covers a lot of production ground with sound bytes from extolling director colleagues of Malick (Nolan, Fincher etc.), justly praising his abilities. Producers, including Pitt, chip in but nothing from the elusive Malick. This is worth watching and is presented in 1080P. Beyond that there is only a 2-minute 'Theatrical Trailer also in HD. There are separate Region 1 - NTSC DVD disc and a digital copy disc included in the package.
Criterion repeat the 1/2 hour Exploring “The Tree of Life,” 2011 documentary featuring collaborators and admirers of Malick’s, including filmmakers David Fincher and Christopher Nolan as found on the 2011 Blu-ray. But they add much more including a new interview with actor Jessica Chastain (running over 18-minutes) in which she discusses working with the director and it includes footage from her extensive audition session. There is also a 23-minute interview with visual-effects supervisor Dan Glass who discusses how the conception of creation was visually realized in the film. There is also a 19-minute interview from 2011 with composer Alexandre Desplat about the film, and a new interview with critic Alex Ross about Malick’s approach to music. I enjoyed the Natural Cubism: The Tree of Life video essay by Benjamin Bin from 2018 running over 16-minutes - it is a first-person analysis of The Tree of Life's radical filmmaking approach, with a particular focus on the cinematography, and features clips from interviews with DoP Lubezki and other members of the film's crew. There is a two-part video essay from 2011 by critic Matt Zoller Seitz - running almost 25-minutes in total. In it Zoller and editor Serena Bramble, for the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, show us the fifth in a series of visual explorations of the work of Terence Malick - specifically the director's unique approach to narration, his free-associative editing style, and the singular cinematography that has come to define his films. lastly is a trailer and the package has liner notes with an essay by critic Kent Jones and a 2011 piece on the film by critic Roger Ebert.
20th Century Fox - Region FREE Blu-ray
Criterion (Theatrical) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Criterion (Extended Version) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
although The Tree of Life has always reached me more intimately. It speaks with precisely realized visuals and the overall presentation remains nothing short of fascinating. I LOVED seeing the extended cut, with its different appearance and it too evokes a unique feeling separate from the theatrical experience. Criterion have given us a wonderful double Blu-ray package with highly interesting supplements. I could just watch and listen constantly. Our highest recommendation!
September 30th, 2011
July 21st, 2018
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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