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‘The Tree of Life’ Editor Billy Weber Confirms Terrence Malick Is Working On Longer Cut

Written by on November 22, 2011 

One of this year’s more tantalizing pieces of news has finally received a follow-up. We first reported in June that Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life would be getting expanded to an astounding six hours through reinstated footage, the majority of which “would mostly focus on the middle portion of the film where we follow Jack (Hunter McCracken) as he grows up in 1950s Texas under the guidance of Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain’s characters.” When you hear that your favorite film of the year is going to be inflated by about three and a half hours, you want to hear more. And we didn’t.

Until now, at least. AllThingsShining (via ThePlaylist) spoke to Billy Weber, one of five editors credited on The Tree of Life, and he told them that Malick is indeed “doing a longer cut of ‘Tree.'” It might not be the most herculean task, either, as they “had so many scenes that were cut out that it wouldn’t be that hard to put together a longer version.” Nearly three years of editing suddenly isn’t so bad, I guess.

All the same, Weber said “I really don’t know what he is going to put back in, but I’m sure that it will be interesting.” Though Malick built a reputation over more than three decades of a slow-working master, he’s suddenly become a busy man; there are four projects of his hitting sometime in the next few years. (If you aren’t aware, that’s an astounding work rate for him.) That busy schedule will almost certainly delay when we can finally see this.

The first person to break the news was cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who said that the enigmatic director was planning to restore Jack-centered things, such as “his friends, his evolution, his changes, his awareness of the loss of his childhood.” With the exception of the friends aspect, almost all of that was in the first cut; thus, I’m getting the idea that this would probably just flesh things out a little further. The Tree of Life is a film I probably wouldn’t change a single frame of, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t desperately want to see what this longer cut might entail. Thankfully, the version we already have is more than suitable.

It would be remiss of me to also not point out Weber‘s comment that Criterion and Warner Bros. are working on a new release of Malick‘s first feature, Badlands, for a release that will happen “fairly soon.” Criterion is a company that likes to work under the radar, so any announcement shouldn’t be expected until it’s only about three months from release. Regardless of timing, this is wonderful news. The DVD for the film isn’t a “terrible” one, but it looks rather dingy when you think of what, say, Days of Heaven looks like in a Criterion’s Blu-ray version (which is to say, perfect). Much like this longer Tree of Life, I don’t know when it’ll happen, but the day it does is one I anticipate greatly.

When do you think Malick’s longer cut will hit? Are you curious to see it? Is a Badlands Criterion on your shopping list?

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