Today: July 18, 2024

Song To Song

You know the Hollywood system has successfully killed the wattage of star power when a film with a cast like Song To Song fails to make any kind of dent at the box office. But then again perhaps Terrence Malick is not a filmmaker who it is fair to judge on box office returns. Afterall, Malick is not a filmmaker who screams ‘accessible’ to the masses. But still, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchette, all in one film, and it made just over a whopping $1 million at the global box office? What’s up with that?

The simple answer is star power is dead. Unless a film is publicised with big shiny, building size posters, digital campaigns that penetrate every pore of social media and inescapable trailers playing on any screen available you probably aren’t going to hear about it. And Song To Song is not a film that lends itself to any of these approaches.

That narratively, or perhaps thematically given Malick is rarely interested in story, Song To Song shares an idea of the trappings of finding success at the expense of love like that of LA LA Land is neither here nor there. Essentially the film follows musicians Gosling and Mara as they embark on a turbulent affair while orbiting the wealth and power of music producer Fassbender.

In typical Malick style Song To Song is sumptuous to look at. Long time director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki basks the world in glorious, reflective images. Aided by the kind of locations that make estate agents drool Song To Song creates a world that is both beautiful and seductive. Even if that world contains the vulpine predator of Fassbender bearing his teeth and, quite literally at one point, prowling around looking for his next sexual conquest.

There is no question that Malick is an acquired taste. Time was his fans would have to wait years for the latest Malick film. These days he seems to be churning them out at a rate of knots, so much so he might be giving Woody Allen a run for his money. Part of his ability to do this is demonstrated clearly in Song To Song. His embrace of new technology. For large chunks of Song To Song’s wistful running time we spy on this world through the fisheye lens of GoPros. The crisp digital imagery warping at the edges perfectly summing up both the film’s moralistic stance as well as Malick’s acceptance to bend his otherwise IMAX like visuals for something a little more gonzo.

But here’s the problem, Song To Song never says or does very much. It is perhaps because his early work was so poignant that so many commercials now mimic his style but Song To Song essentially feels like a two hour perfume advert. You half expect Portman or Mara to turn to camera and announce “pour le music”. Yes, it, like the cast, is beautiful to look at but between all the whispered voice overs and endless shots of characters rubbing up against each other you’re left none the wiser.

More often than not Malick elicits a sense of emotion but it feels frustratingly lacking here. In the most Malick way possible Song To Song is a poem about love, ambition and self-indulgence. That last one in particular could be said about a director who is normally a filmmaker who captures your eye as well as your heart.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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