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Toronto 2010: Fox Searchlight will eat from the 'Tree of Life'

September 9, 2010 |  4:25 pm

For a little while, it was the most talked-about film in Cannes that wasn't at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, at least for a little while,"Tree of Life" is the most talked-about film in Toronto that's not playing at the Toronto Film Festival.

Fox Searchlight grabbed some thunder north of the border with the announcement today that it had acquired rights to the Terrence Malick movie -- it of the endless postproduction tweaks and Brad Pitt and Sean Penn performances, a tour-de-but-what-the-heck-is-it-about -- from a battered and now apparently unraveled Apparition.

Malick The distribution of the film through the Bill Pohlad entity was in doubt ever since Bob Berney left Apparition in May, and its ultimate owner was a question mark. Searchlight coming on gives it a serious boost.

With a boost comes a downer, though: Searchlight is well-stocked on the 2010 awards front, so the company won't release "Tree of Life" until 2011 (and, if we had to guess, given the specialized subject matter, later in the year). Then again, given how long Malick's been fiddling with the film -- and given how the speculation that it could show up at this year's Cannes was quashed -- 2011 isn't that far off.

Despite the distribution announcement today, there's still not much more detail on what's actually in the long-awaited movie. Previous reports have said that "Tree of Life" explores one Midwestern man's journey from innocence to jadedness but really, what does that tell you? In its statement, Searchlight didn't offer much in the way of  reveals, though it did say that the man's journey involves an attempted reconciliation with his father, and company presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley did call the film "deeply moving, keenly observed and magisterial."

But as long as we're reading tea leaves, Searchlight has a history of working with auteurs -- it has Danny Boyle and Darren Aronofsky, among others, here in Canada -- but there's typically a commercial undercurrent to many of their pickups. So maybe "Tree of Life" will be a little more dramatically paced than "The New World." One can hope.

--Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Toronto


Photo: Terrence Malick. Credit: Getty Images

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