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Review: Song To Song

Song To Song
03.17.2017
4 10

PLOT: This is an exploration of two romantic triangles set inside the Austin, Texas music scene.

REVIEW: Terrence Malick has the uncanny ability to create some of the most stunning images in cinema today. It’s always the imagery and the strange dreamlike state that his characters seem to exist in that fascinate many viewers. When it came to SONG TO SONG, I was looking forward to seeing what he could do by adding a heavy music influence. When a director sets his story in the world of music it can open a brand new, and sometimes compelling, element to the finished project. Here, he not only features a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman, you’ll also find Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and John Lydon. It’s a shame that the rock and roll part seems to be an afterthought, because all we really have is a typical Malick film with souls wandering around  connecting to each other - except this time without much actual soul.

2017 drama michael fassbender natalie portman rooney mara ryan gosling song to song terrence malick Describing a plot for a Terrence Malick flick is a bit odd because he rarely has much of one. In the new film we follow two love triangles set in the music scene of Austin, Texas. Mostly, it is just Rooney Mara searching for a meaningful romance whether it is with Ryan Gosling or Bérénice Marlohe, or Michael Fassbender getting deep with Natalie Portman. The characters spend a whole lot of time in very expensive homes, looking into the distance and trying to decipher the strange world of sex and romance. If you are familiar with Malick’s recent work - KNIGHT OF CUPS or TO THE WONDER - then you will be fully aware of what to expect with this.

When it came to his past few films I’ve mostly been on board, with THE TREE OF LIFE being my favorite. However, something happened with this particular look into a tangled web of complicated romantic entanglements. My biggest issue was, while KNIGHT OF CUPS connected with me, this just felt like more of the same. This time, instead of moviemakers and such we have musicians and producers. Yet they all seem to just lounge around talking in monologues, and sharing intimate moments with each other. There are about five scenes that feature Ms. Mara just looking out into the distance with some random location behind her. This is nothing new for the filmmaker, and that may have been fine had this not just been another flick about rich people dissatisfied with their lives.

And how about the music? It was terrific to see legendary musicians like Patti Smith and Iggy Pop sitting around talking about life and love. Even when the film opens, Malick brings you into the pit at a concert with bodies twisting and contorting, all in his trademark dreamy photography with the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. But if you are going to make a film that is set in the music scene, at least have the music mean something. There is very little live performance, instead we have a few seconds of Patti Smith on stage, then back to Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling playfully engaging in each other, or Holly Hunter crying in a parking lot. It’s beautiful sure, but it’s ultimately extremely dull. And this is coming from someone who tends to enjoy his work.

The actors are fine. Gosling and Mara are good together, but not as intriguing as Mara and Marlohe. Fassbender is always great, and he has a couple of moments here to shine. For nearly every single one of Malick’s films I tend to really appreciate one character. This time it was Rooney Mara. I enjoyed the hell out of her here, but even still it felt as if she kept wandering into different stories without really letting us get to know her. And then there was Val Kilmer. He has a very small role, but it was almost like seeing what his take on Jim Morrison would have been had the legendary rocker not passed away. Kilmer was terrific in Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS, so seeing him with the long hair on stage was enjoyable.

2017 drama michael fassbender natalie portman rooney mara ryan gosling song to song terrence malick

The screening I attended was a mix of critics and fans. It didn’t go well. At least twenty people walked out, and once it ended the theatre broke out into laughter. Not a good sign. If we didn’t have KNIGHT OF CUPS I may have appreciated it a whole lot more. Sadly it just felt like an uninspired continuation of rich people just wandering through their life. It is gorgeous to look at, and there are moments of real emotional beauty here. While I certainly didn’t have the miserable experience that some of the others had, ultimately this just didn't work. The music was hardly touched upon, and the whole love story angle has already been explored far better previously by the filmmaker. 

It is nearly impossible to really recommend this, but if you happen to be a Malick fan as I am, you will probably at least want to give it a watch. Of course, you may want to wait until you are in the comfort of your own home. After his previous couple of films, it appears that he may need to take on a different subject soon. Frankly I miss the days when we’d have to wait a few years for a new feature from this stylish director. Is SONG TO SONG worth sitting though? Only for the most hardcore Terrence Malick fans... and even they may not dig this particular tune.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:58PM on 03/18/2017
Strange the Malick is so productive in recent years, compared to the 2-3 decades he spent making his first 5 films. Haven't got around to watching Knight of Cups yet, b/c I wasn't a huge fan of To The Wonder. Malick recently reminds me of Woody Allen, who we all know is talented and can still deliver a great film, but also so many mediocre films.
Strange the Malick is so productive in recent years, compared to the 2-3 decades he spent making his first 5 films. Haven't got around to watching Knight of Cups yet, b/c I wasn't a huge fan of To The Wonder. Malick recently reminds me of Woody Allen, who we all know is talented and can still deliver a great film, but also so many mediocre films.
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6:53AM on 03/18/2017
I have a difficult with Malick. Badlands and The Thin Red Line are pretty great but I'm not really a big fan of any thing else he has done over the years. I feel like his movies are the perfect embodiment of what people bitch about when they bitch about arthouse movies.
I have a difficult with Malick. Badlands and The Thin Red Line are pretty great but I'm not really a big fan of any thing else he has done over the years. I feel like his movies are the perfect embodiment of what people bitch about when they bitch about arthouse movies.
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+0
4:05PM on 03/17/2017
Bummer.

I once had a film professor who said that if Mallick had called it quits after Tree of Life he would've had the most perfect filmography in history, I don't know if I 100% agree with that but with Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World and Tree of Life he would've had a pretty ridiculously impressive one with each film having its share of critics who will passionately argue that it's one of the greatest ever made. Sadly, everything post-Tree of Life has been of a
Bummer.

I once had a film professor who said that if Mallick had called it quits after Tree of Life he would've had the most perfect filmography in history, I don't know if I 100% agree with that but with Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World and Tree of Life he would've had a pretty ridiculously impressive one with each film having its share of critics who will passionately argue that it's one of the greatest ever made. Sadly, everything post-Tree of Life has been of a noticeably different quality, there's certainly no flock of Sight & Sound voters arguing that To The Wonder or Knight of Cups is one of the greatest films ever.
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1:23PM on 03/17/2017
I don't know why people think they need to talk about how they are big malick fans; congrats you get your film buff badge, now you're free to bash/not get it all his later work
I don't know why people think they need to talk about how they are big malick fans; congrats you get your film buff badge, now you're free to bash/not get it all his later work
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10:58AM on 03/17/2017
Not really the biggest fan of Malick, but the cast for this is great and I love films that incorporate the subject and/or theme of music into their storylines (ie Begin Again, Sing Street, Once).
Not really the biggest fan of Malick, but the cast for this is great and I love films that incorporate the subject and/or theme of music into their storylines (ie Begin Again, Sing Street, Once).
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1:20PM on 03/17/2017
could've just put ie john carney
could've just put ie john carney
10:43AM on 03/17/2017

Don't care.

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10:13AM on 03/17/2017
Can we all admit now that Malick is a pretentious asshat who only had a few good films in him? He seems like he's jerking himself off now.
Can we all admit now that Malick is a pretentious asshat who only had a few good films in him? He seems like he's jerking himself off now.
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1:06PM on 03/17/2017
Yeah.. I agree.. by the way, parts of this movie were filmed in my home town in Mexico like 4 or 5 years ago.. I thought it would never see the light.. what a waste of a good cast..
Yeah.. I agree.. by the way, parts of this movie were filmed in my home town in Mexico like 4 or 5 years ago.. I thought it would never see the light.. what a waste of a good cast..
4:08PM on 03/17/2017
Eh, his first five films all have legions of critics and academics who list them among the absolute greatest films ever made, so that's something and probably earns you license to a certain degree of pretension, but yea, there's really no arguing that everything post Tree of Life has been a big disappointment even for his most ardent fans.
Eh, his first five films all have legions of critics and academics who list them among the absolute greatest films ever made, so that's something and probably earns you license to a certain degree of pretension, but yea, there's really no arguing that everything post Tree of Life has been a big disappointment even for his most ardent fans.
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