As I was saying on Twitter last night, there’s something Willy Wonka-esque about Terrence Malick. The man hasn’t done press in ages, and because of that – and the twenty year absence from cinema – he’s got a mysterious and magical aura around him. Nobody makes movies like Terry – he gets to play with pretty big toys for a dilettante, and he is just as likely to make a movie, as translate philosophy. And since no one gets to talk to him about how he makes movies, his process comes across as alchemy.

Though he didn’t turn up at the Oscars when nominated for The Thin Red Line, it’s possible we might get a new picture or two of Malick with the new release date for Tree of Life. Fox Searchlight has slated the film for May 27th. What that means is that – since they’re forgoing Oscars in 2010 – they’re going to Cannes with it. Because this is Malick, every major film festival for the last year has hoped to snag the film’s debut. This is smart. Though the fan in me would have been happier had the film been released this year, Fox Searchlight has got Never Let Me Go (which – sadly – is probably out of the conversation), Conviction, Black Swan, and 127 Hours as Oscar hopefuls so they’ve got a full plate.

Few people have seen the picture (mostly cast and crew) so Cannes isn’t a done deal, but if they could get Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Robin Hood on the red carpet the question seems to be whether the picture will be in or out of competition. Malick won a best director trophy in 1978 for Days of Heaven at Cannes, so my guess is that it’s going to be in competition. If anyone wants to send me to Cannes for coverage, I’m available.

For summer movie fans, this means Tree of Life will be going up against May titles Thor, Pirates 4, and (same weekend) The Hangover 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom.