Song to Song
dir-scr Terrence Malick
prd Sarah Green, Nicolas Gonda, Ken Kao
with Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Berenice Marlohe, Holly Hunter, Val Kilmer, Patti Smith, Lykke Li, Linda Emond, Tom Sturridge
release US 17.Mar.17, UK 7.Jul.17
17/US 2h09
Song to Song
Three sides to the story: Mara, Fassbender and Gosling

portman blanchett hunter
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Song to Song Set around the South by Southwest music festival, this is another experimentally exquisite drama from Terrence Malick. Surreal and fragmented, the film is a collage of striking imagery photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki with added eclectic musical performances and a narrative that seems to unfold out of sequence, although we're never quite sure. It's sweet and playful, sometimes wrenchingly emotional and maddeningly hard to pin down.

A musician yearning to perform, Faye (Mara) meets songwriter BV (Gosling) at a glitzy party thrown by high-powered producer Cook (Fassbender). She hopes both can help spark her career, attracted to Cook's power and won over by BV's charisma. Among a series of conquests, Cook falls for Rhonda (Portman), a waitress who lives with her mother (Hunter) and is overwhelmed by Cook's wealth. Meanwhile, Cook and BV have a professional falling out, straining BV's romance with Faye. And he turns to Amanda (Blanchett) on the rebound, while Faye finds comfort with Zoey (Marlohe).

As it traces this bewildering maze of interconnecting relationships, the film resembles someone's unusually beautiful home movies edited together with whispery existential voiceovers. As always, Malick artfully blends footage shot over a span of years in a ravishing way that centres on thoughts and feelings and leaves the overriding story in the bagkground. So while the meandering, improvisational style is difficult to get a grip on, the deeper themes and skilled cast become focal points.

The acting is edgy and powerful. Mara is engaging as a darkly thoughtful woman caught between two very different men: Fassbender's swaggering predator offers success, Gosling's lively charmer offers happiness. And yes, that's the main thrust of the film's themes: the wrenching push and pull between ambition and human connection. In a way, Faye has been using both of these men. The side characters never quite emerge as fully defined people, although Portman and Blanchett nicely convey a mix of happiness and pain.

Basically, there's a lot of nose-to-nose canoodling, waterside strolls, a spot of weightlessness in a private jet and cameos from the likes of Johnny Lydon, Iggy Pop and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Underlying all of this is an intriguing parallel between the search for love and the quest for artistic integrity. It's about how we are shaped by our connections, including the tension between creativity and commerce. Although it's fairly clear that, even with this A-list cast and crew, Malick isn't worried about making money.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 7.Jul.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall