The guide to the mysterious Terrence Malick

The release of a Terrence Malick movie is like a rare eclipse: It barely ever happens, so when it does, the film community takes note.

“The Tree of Life,” the latest flick by the reclusive Austin-based filmmaker, has been eagerly anticipated for years. Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, it’s just Malick’s fifth movie in a career that began with “Badlands” in 1973.

An ambitious and meditative poem that melds the story of a young boy growing up in Waco, Texas, during the ’50s with the origin of the universe, “The Tree of Life” finally hits theaters on Friday after winning the top prize at the recently completed Cannes Film Festival. We help you get up to speed on all things Malick.

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