I am sure Mr. Gamble will have something to say about this bit of decision making that has been circling the web regarding Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (Kurt’s Review). Has the arthouse fallen into such a rut in terms of audience awareness and open-mindedness for cinema sacrificed for safe feel-good adult dramedys? (Call it the Bottle Shock effect.) Or is this simply a ‘it doesn’t hurt to warn people?’ preemptive thinking? When David O. Russell’s Three Kings came out, some cinemas (and eventually the DVD release) had warnings that the colour palette of the film (desaturated and grainy) was intentional and not a flaw of the projection, so this sort of precedent is not unheard-of . Even if you want to just talk about content and not technical aspects, I’m sure there were warnings on Enter The Void and Irreversible in North America during their runs, and that is probably a good thing. Examples of cinema-goers being warned about unusual content or style beyond the simple rating system warnings of extreme violence or harsh language are unusual, but by no means unheard of, but still worth examining why some theatres might be proactive about informing their customers, particularly when the films have huge Hollywood stars in them, which may draw some folks that might not be aware of what the film is actually about (in terms of Brad Pitt, see also The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). Here is the Avon Theatre notice:
Jim Emerson over at Scanners Blog probably has the best summation. Halfway down his piece is probably the best example of a warning/disclaimer that plays like comedy, yet was posted at Cannes of all places.
Back to Tree of Life, from an IndieWire interview with an Avon Theatre executive:
“The overwhelming response to the film was, in fact, positive. There was a small but vocal minority of patrons who walked out of the film, but there were a few individuals who were fairly nasty and belligerent towards the management staff, demanding their money back. There have been a significant number of people who were fascinated by the film and there were plenty of individuals who have written to us to tell us that they thought the film was a masterpiece.”
“The combination of walkouts and isolated instances led us to take our approach with the memo. We always want to be as direct, open and transparent as possible with our patrons and potential filmgoers. If they’re not totally informed about the movie’s stylistic approach, then they might want to take a moment to read up on it and decide whether or not it’s something they might want to see. We wanted to keep customers aware while preemptively diffusing instances like what happened last week when customers got up in the faces of our kind and caring staff.”
This sort of ‘belligerent behavior’ this was spotted by Rowthree pal Jason Gorber (thanks to Mamo! Matt Brown for the heads up on this one) as a touch of passive-aggressive graffiti in the Bell Lightbox (The TIFF group multiplex in Toronto) washroom:
Got an opinion? Got a Tree of Life cinema story? Chime in in the comments section.