Song to Song (DVD)
Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017
The term "visual poem" gets thrown around a lot when describing Terrence Malick's most recent work, starting with 2011's Tree of Life. Even before then his films relied heavily on visuals to help tell the story, but his work increasingly favors beautiful imagery and strives towards creating feelings and moods more so than a continuous narrative thread. Thus, dialogue is intermittent and often jumps around. I can certainly see why this might not appeal to people. That being said, Song to Song is my favorite of Terrence Malick's recent "visual poems," and my favorite film of his since 2005's The New World.
BV (Ryan Gosling) and Faye (Rooney Mara) are both aspiring musicians. They serendipitously meet at a Hollywood-style party and fall for each other. Their relationship is complicated by Cook (Michael Fassbender), a successful music producer who weaves himself into BV and Faye's lives, both professionally and personally. The story jumps around between these three characters' relationship as well as their romances with other characters, played by a bevy of terrific actresses like Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. We often see fractions of scenes: the end of a fight between BV and Cook about BV's music, the middle of a date between BV and Faye. We are never shown the full story, just fragments, fragments that are designed to communicate the feelings and emotions that mimic the roller coaster highs and lows that come with chasing your dreams and finding love.
Shot by famed three-time consecutive Oscar winner for best cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki, the film is absolutely beautiful. Malick and Lubezki's work together really is unique; there isn't much comparable to it. Like his last few films, there are reports that there was no script used when filming the movie, just to give you an idea of how it can feel disconnected or even wondering/aimless at times. The movie really has a terrific cast, with Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara giving equally entrancing turns as mysterious but charming musicians, and Michael Fassbender standing out as a successful but morally bankrupt music executive.
If a movie without a strong narrative thread doesn't seem completely uninteresting to you, I think you'll find a movie that seems to float in and around its characters lives, and and you'll understand how these moments feel even though you won't know the whole story.