Film critics and cineastes in general adore Terence Malick. Audiences, not so much. That was clear last year when his The Tree of Life was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a best picture Oscar but earned only $13 million at the box office. (To be fair, it averaged $93,230 at each of the four theaters that showed it on opening weekend.) And although Malick can go 20 years without making a movie, one year after Tree of Life , he's back with a new one, To the Wonder, and is said to be working on yet another film currently. To the Wonder premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday and was greeted by loud booing and hissing that virtually drowned out what Agence France-Presse called "tepid applause." And while the French wire service scored Malick for "self-indulgent filmmaking" and particularly flayed co-star Ben Affleck for an "unconvincing" performance "with his gormless [a British term meaning dopey] expressions interspersed with occasional scowls and smiles," most critics at Venice viewed the film with, well, wonder. Peter Bradshaw in Britain's Guardian newspaper called it "a bold and often beautiful movie, unfashionably and unironically concerned with love and God, and what will happen to us in the absence of either." Oliver Lyttleton in the Indiewire.com blog The Playlist found the movie to be "more coherent, deeply felt and satisfying" than Tree of Life . Robbie Collin in the London Telegraph thought it "uneven but utterly beguiling ... a film of tender, often rapturous beauty, although once or twice, things do skate perilously close to self-parody." But Lee Marshall in the British trade publication Screen Daily concluded "The pictures are pretty, the music is pretty, the existential voice-overs are pretty but after almost two hours of wistful, message-larded prettiness, Malick's latest visual symphonic poem has us squirming in our seats."

03/09/2012