Dir: Terrence Malick | Cast: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Bérénice Marlohe | Drama | US | 129 mins
More twirling and swirling from Terrence Malick in Song to Song, formerly known as Weightless, which feels somehow more appropriate, given the style of content of his ninth feature. The episodic, fractured narrative begins with an ominous statement from its central character Faye (Rooney Mara, living up to the name): “I went though a period. And sex had to be violent” this ushers in more gliding set pieces from a gilded Austin lifestyle – but it could also be LA – featuring property porn, rock concerts and eternity pools and suggest a menage a trois between her two lovers, the loose-limbed Ryan Gosling and a menacing Michael Fassbender, while her father admonishes her gravely: “do you trust this man”, “your mother and I would like to come and visit with you”. “I can’t watch the birds, ‘cos we watched them together”. “I had to find my way out, of you”. It’s all brilliant stuff for a Hallmark greetings card.
This enigmatic scenario continues for 120 tortuous minutes much in the same vein as the others in this hastily flung together twosome of love triangles: To The Wonder and Knight of Cups. There are are all pretty much of a muchness. There’s plenty of throwaway glances, fond kisses and slavish embraces “sometimes the truth isn’t the right thing to say” is one of the more oblique lines Mara has to utter as she carelessly flirts her way between her suitors; all troubled, disingenuous and coy. “Sometimes, I admire what a hypocrit I am”.
Fassbender and Gosling appear to be working together in the music business but somehow Fassbender appears to have the upper hand having offered the lythe singer-songwriter a contract, yet there’s a hint of double-crossing from Gosling’s perspective. The best scene is a neon lit dance-floor routine set to My Little Runaway, but it’s all too brief. There’s lots of hugging and the trio clearly share a palpable on-screen chemistry. Then there’s Gosling’s vague ex who sounds strikingly like Merrill Hemingway in Manhattan. And John Lydon and Iggy Pop who also appear with non-singing cameos.
Despite the urgent fondling, teasing and febrile groping no real sex actually takes place making the whole thing feel pent up and unsatisfied. Specially as Faye (not only wanted it violently) but appears to be hoping to clinch a record deal from Fassbender, who’s also her boss. Meanwhile he’s having a thing with blond saccharine waitress Nathalie Portman – again no sex occurs beyond the caresses – as she exhorts him to “do want you want with me”. Dangerous stuff, but not. Then she tearfully breaks down as the scene flips into an obsidian black obscurity that cleverly switches to snatches of a black and white classic movie. Bond Girl Bérénice Marlohe appears briefly just to say to Faye “you face is so beautiful in the shadows” before planting a lesbian kiss on her ubiquitous white midriff. Gosling then moves on to a dalliance with Kate Blanchett’s Amanda (“just take me somewhere”), completing the second of the two love triangles.
Emmanuel Lubezki has fun with his lenses, particularly on the widescreen and in intimate close-up – the whole film looks utterly amazing, as you would expect from him. Devotees who worship at the Malick altar will be smitten, while others look on in glazed tolerance, waiting for Iggy, or even Lydon, to perform. Somebody in the crowd says: “I can go on for hours with one chord. Just one chord, hammerin’,” and that just about sums it all up. MT
ON RELEASE FROM 7 JULY 2017