UK Tree of Life Release: Shocker or Snafu?

It appears as if some kind of mistake was made by England’s Icon Distribution in announcing (or failing to convincingly deny) that it would commercially release Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life on May 4th, as reported earlier today by Empire‘s Helen O’Hara.

A shock wave went around for a couple of hours later this morning when it seemed at least possible that the story might be true because such a move would have completely undercut the hoopla effect of the expected Cannes Film Festival debut of Malick’s film, which will probably happen a week after the questionably-reported British opening.

I was told by two senior execs with Fox Searchlight, the film’s domestic distributor, that the Empire report is most likely untrue. I then asked Jill Jones, chief of int’l distribution for Summit Entertainment, which holds int’l rights on The Tree of Life, to deny or confirm the story, and through her spokesperson she refused to do either — thanks, Jill! Instead she referred me to Zak Brilliant, VP distribution and publicity or Icon Distribution UK, which will open Malick’s film sometime in May, and he also refused to respond.

So I haven’t been told for sure that it’s an incorrect story, but it probably is.

Earlier but never posted: If today’s Empire magazine report about the May 4th British release date for Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life is solid, the air is not only rapidly hissing out of the Malick/Life/Cannes Film Festival balloon — the balloon is deflated and lying on the pavement. For Empire‘s Helen O’Hara is essentially reporting that the expected Cannes debut of Malick’s Penn/Pitt/dinosaur movie has been made completely meaningless by the British release plan.

Summit has international rights to The Tree of Life, and they’ve sub-licensed the British film rights to Icon Releasing. I’m currently waiting for Summit’s Jill Jones to confirm yea or nay. I’ve spoken to two reps from Fox Searchlight, which is releasing Tree of Life domestically, and been told that O’Hara’s report sounds extremely suspect.

But if it’s true this is the end of The Tree of Life because it’s been completely devalued as a Cannes attraction. It not only kills the Malicky coolness factor chasing the festival’s expected unveiling, but indicates that the film is less than the cat’s meow. If it were something special you know that the film’s producers and Cannes honcho Thierry Fremaux wouldn’t allow it to open anywhere before Cannes because a pre-festival commercial opening completely suffocates the tingle.

What a shocker if true! Years of waiting and all this delay, and the Cannes booking of The Tree of Life not even confirmed and it all might all come down to a commercial opening in England? A young mom in Leeds who can’t afford a babysitter will be able to take her two kids to an afternoon showing of The Tree of Life at the local plex before the Cannes elite has a looksee? No, no…that’s too much, too ridiculous. It can’t be true.

  • JLC

    In other words, you won’t be able to see it before everyone else when you go to Cannes. Bummer. Agreed that must mean the film is a pile of crap. (Why, I don’t know, but whatever.)

  • longrunner

    Yup, my first impression when reading this post was that Wells was just pouting because he won’t get to see it before the rest of us rubes do.

  • Rashad

    Score one for the Eloi

  • LexG

    Hey, Jeff, I can probably hook you up with a nice, depressing, soul-crushing transcription/subbing job where you could probably see Malick’s vision as it was meant to be seen– in 1.33 black and white on a You-Tube sized screen watched 10 frames at a time in reverse order over the course of six days then seventeen QC rewatches– and probably even WEEKS EARLY!

  • ElstonGunnAICN

    Here is the poster, if you want to update:

  • ElstonGunnAICN
  • Mark

    I caught Tree of Life on couple Sundays ago on Reelz Channel. I liked it fine, but Mallick’s vision, IMO, was somewhat diminished by all Bowflex and University of Phoenix commercials interspersed throughout.

  • Tristan Eldritch2

    Where I live, Tree of Life has been out on dvd for about a year now, in a triple box set with Terminal Velocity and Cliffhanger. I’ve watched the other two, but I haven’t got around to Tree yet.

  • Mr Hooper

    I think what everybody is saying, Jeff, is come in off the ledge. What’s the big deal about the movie getting released in England and not Cannes? Sure, you won;t be seeing it first and really, so what? At least it’ll be seen, which is all that matters. You’re having a case of the vapors and it makes you sound like a child. This is not one of the “longest buildups in history.” I’m pretty sure it’s not even close on any level. Besides, weren’t you preemptively tearing Tree down just last week? You should be delighted it’s opening in England first because surely that must mean something about the quality of the film, right? Right?

  • Rashad

    Biz Markie in the house

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    I have come to realize that HE is probably one of the most religion-confirming sites online.

    Because the longer I read it, the more I am convinced karma exists…

  • George Prager

    Anyone seen “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” yet? Or “Of Gods and Men”? “A Screaming Man”?

    C’mon throw me a bone here!

  • Edward

    I can hardly wait to see any new Malick film, I don’t care how long it’s taken him to get it cut.

    Taking a long time in the editing room isn’t surprising, but I wonder if by editing digitally (I’m assuming “Tree of Life was edited digitally), gives the editor and director too many choices? I can imagine each scene having multiple versions and multiple upon multiple sequences … As a former video/producer/editor, I’d love to pick his brain about his workflow/technique.

  • BaxterPeanut

    It’s gonna be interesting to see if the Leeds mum has the same take on the film that HE does. It may have some flaws and the release date may or may not bode ominous red-flags over the production – I just hope it’s not so bad that we can’t discuss it here every single day thru next year’s award season a la “Social Network”. After all, this is the most important film to be released this century after TSN, right?

  • Indeed

    I think it’s safe to say Wells is just bummed he won’t have an opportunity to spoil the ending as soon as he walks out of the theater.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    Everybody shut the fuck up.


  • CitizenKaned4Life

    Funny thread; love how almost everyone has their sarcastic knives — or is that samurai swords? — out for Wells.

  • Markj74

    Well spotted Gabe.

  • Gaydos

    There’s a bigger story here. That’s all I will say for now.

  • rick blaine

    May 4th here in London, right? Great. I’ll be there first session on opening day.

  • Bob Violence

    Cannes won’t even allow a movie to play in the official selection if it’s already opened outside its home country — if this is really opening in the UK then it won’t be at Cannes except maybe for market screenings

  • LexG

    Pitt all shaving the sides, 1990-style.

    It should say “ICE” in the back.

  • markj

    Well spotted Gabe.

  • BobbyLupo

    “I wonder if by editing digitally (I’m assuming “Tree of Life was edited digitally), gives the editor and director too many choices?”

    There are people who can make this claim, but Mallick isn’t one of them. His films have always taken forever to edit, because he looks to ruminate on things. ‘Days of Heaven’ took at least two years to edit.

    Editing digitally doesn’t actually give any more choices, it creates that illusion because it makes it so much easier (and much much much quicker) to see what your choices are. But taking longer? No, unless you’re able to magically find the exact right frame to cut on in every case on a Steenbeck, editing digitally will never take more time than editing on a Steenbeck.

  • Bob Violence

    Anne Thompson has posted that Fox has flatly denied this.

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