Thursday, June 1, 2017


Like any Malick film, I needed to sit with my thoughts for a little while before writing about this. Anyone who follows this site on a semi-regular basis knows that I'm blindly in love with his post-New World cinematic universe (I actually found myself liking his latest movie before I even actually saw it which isn't a good thing). Song To Song is hardly a perfect movie (by this point you should know that no Terrence Malick film is going to be without flaw no matter how beautiful it is).
First of all, it is my personal opinion that Song To Song is kind of a terrible title. I don't mean to sound so harsh & nitpicky but I just can't connect with it. And what's strange is that it does go with the film's vibe & ambiance (a story about musicians & songwriters).
Secondly, I think the film's length (126 minutes) could have been much shorter (around 80 minutes) or much longer (possibly over 180 minutes). To quote my friend Chris Funderburg of the Pink Smoke, movies should be either really short or really really long. I couldn't agree with that sentiment more (especially in the case of this movie). These 2 hour and 10 minute movie lengths are just silly. Seriously what's the point?
I guess you could say that's a positive criticism in the sense that part of me wanted more of this movie (and to be clear I wanted more of and not from it. There's a difference)

My final critique is that Rooney Mara didn't come off like a believable musician. She certainly played her part in any scene that didn't concern music but whenever we see her holding a guitar or plucking at piano keys it really didn't look believable. Some of you may consider that to be a little nitpicky as well but her character was supposed to be a musician. She needed to be believable. She just came off as a "play" or "pretend" musician. But, like I said earlier, she still played her part overall. I can't think of another actress who could play her role in Song To Song. And I would say that Rooney Mara's character is the most depth I've seen Malick give a female character in a very very long time...

While this film is still shot in the same exact style as his three previous films (Tree Of Life, To The Wonder & Knight Of Cups) and uses some of the same actors & actresses (Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett & Michael Fassbinder standing in as sort of a surrogate for Malick-regular Christian Bale), it's not part of the same semi-autobiographical Malick world he's been exploring for the last 5-6 years. He seems to have finally got all his family "stuff" off his chest for the most part (there is a nod to Malick's second wife towards the second half of the movie but you wouldn't know this unless you read a biography on him). Song To Song is the story of romance & relationships between a group of aspiring musicians set within the Austin music scene (a large chunk of the film was shot during the Fun Fun Fun fest).

Plenty of Malick detractors will watch Song To Song (or just watch the trailer) and see no difference between it and his previous work. And that's fair. Just look at these imagery comparisons between Knight Of Cups & Song To Song...

This is Malick's first film to really concentrate on youth & youth culture. I know Badlands, Days Of Heaven & Tree Of Life feature important young characters, but Song To Song is Malick's first film set during a music festival which, although inclusive to all ages, is mostly synonymous with younger people. There’s also a lot more energy & aggression in Song To Song when compared to Knight Of Cups & To The Wonder (especially To The Wonder). The first words spoken in the movie talk about sex being violent. That’s foreign to the world of Terrence Malick.

But at the same time that's not to say older people don't play an important part of this movie. There's a lot of older characters in Song To Song who pass knowledge down to the younger characters.

And as disconnected as Song To Song may be from Malick’s previous films, he’s still building off of what he started exploring (and questioning) with The New World. A lot of people (myself included) associate (romantic) love between two people exclusively. It’s kind of the standard idea/unwritten “rule” of what love is supposed to be. But ever since Malick’s “return” with The New World he’s been questioning the idea of monogamy. Of course that’s possible for some people but you don’t really see that too much in movies under a somewhat positive light. Most times it’s considered simply cheating (which it can be sometimes) but Malick is taking the route that Two Lovers explored a few years ago. In The New World we see Pocahontas genuinely fall in love with two men in a kind of organic way. Same thing in To The Wonder. Ben Affleck has genuine feelings for two women at the same time. Throughout Knight Of Cups we see “Rick” (Christian Bale) fall in & out of love quite a few times (this may be the one example of fake and/or fickle love in Malick’s cinematic universe) and Song To Song is just a web of intense romantic relationships. Malick's latest film is being marketed as a love triangle but that’s not really the case. It’s more like a web or a tree branch. Yes, the three main characters are caught up in a love triangle but it doesn’t stop there. They also branch out and have intense organic relationships with other supporting characters. I don’t even necessarily agree with the idea of loving multiple people at once (I’m an only child and I don’t like sharing certain things like partners), but this is still a subject that should be explored.

Song To Song has quite a few other subconscious connections to films outside of the Malick wheelhouse. Seeing Rooney Mara & Cate Blanchett in the same film again (they don't share any scenes together) might remind some of you of Carol (one of the relationships briefly explored in Song To Song is a lesbian relationship which makes the connection to Carol slightly stronger).
Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River is very Malick-esque possibly due to the fact that while Gosling was acting in Song To Song he also worked on Lost River.

At the end of the day Terrence Malick is going full-on Malick with each film and Song To Song is no exception. If you didn’t like Knight Of Cups or To The Wonder there’s no point in seeking this out because you’re only looking to intentionally frustrate yourself. However if you’re a loyal Malick fan or just curious/open-minded, then this is the movie for you.


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