Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter, Bérénice Marlohe, Val Kilmer, Lykke Li, Olivia Grace Applegate, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, John Lydon, Florence Welch, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Written by: Terrence Malick
Directed by: Terrence Malick
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality, nudity, drug use and language
Running Time: 129
Date: 03/17/2017

Song to Song (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mood Music

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Terrence Malick fans will be pleased and detractors will be annoyed; this drama is filled with Malick's usual trademarks: beautiful wanderings and poetic thoughts, an existential portrait of longing.

In Song to Song, struggling musician BV (Ryan Gosling) tries to find success in the Austin, Texas music scene. He meets music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender), who has another struggling songstress, Faye (Rooney Mara), in his clutches. Faye falls for BV, and eventually Cook becomes interested in an attractive waitress, Rhonda (Natalie Portman), and sweeps her away into a world of glamor and music. But BV becomes jealous and breaks up with Faye; both of them drift into the arms of other lovers, while their music careers sputter. Can they ever find happiness again?

Song to Song is more an experimental movie than a plot-driven one, and like other Malick movies (especially The New World, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder), the images show a primal way of being, humans interacting with their surroundings, touching things, seeing things. In particular, Ryan Gosling is particularly comfortable with this part; he's more playful than many other recent Malick leading men. And the cinematography by the great Emmanuel Lubezki beautifully captures natural light, and gorgeous shapes and textures.

The soundtrack on the other hand is a tapestry of expressed thoughts and ideas, sometimes drifting away, sometimes alighting on something meaningful. So it's a clash of being and thinking, and also a beautiful dance between them. Yet most modern viewers are not trained to watch things like this; it's like a European art house movie from another era, comparable to late Antonioni, Welles, or Bresson, but baffling, and boring, to newcomers. Malick is a giant that will one day find his place, but for now, only the initiated — or the sublimely curious — need apply.

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