Auteur director Terrence Malik has many fans, but perhaps not Sean Penn.

In an interview in Le Figaro last week, Penn admitted he was underwhelmed by Malick’s latest film The Tree of Life, where he makes a short but memorable appearance.

It was all Greek to Penn. He was completely lost.

'I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read,' Penn told the French newspaper. 'A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.'


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The film critic of The New Yorker took a different view, defending Malick from Peen's barbs. 'Penn is very good in the film,' the critic wrote, 'but Malick wasn’t shooting it for the pleasure or the benefit of the actors. What Penn conveys in his performance is his very stardom, his charisma, his emotional intensity. Malick’s methods don’t let the actor employ much of his accustomed technique, but this doesn’t at all lessen the beauty and the impact of his performance.'