SONG TO SONG. USA, 2017. Starring Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchet, Holly Hunter, Berenice Marlohe, Linda Emond, Tom Sturridge, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, John Lydon. Directed by Terrence Malick. 130 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, coarse language, drug use and nudity).
Fragments, jigsaw pieces, snippets…
Jigsaw pieces mean that there can be a whole and coherent picture. Fragments, not – diverse, disparate, a partial picture. Snippets offer quick glimpses that come and go, may be connected, unconnected, disconnected.
Song to Song. Songs, Austin, Texas, music scene, producers, musicians, the enormous range in the music credits list, but how much noted and noticed over 130 minutes? The great range of singers playing themselves, Patti Smith, different bands. Chants, hymns and St Francis Peace Prayer.
Reality, fantasy, surreality.
Rooney Mara, soft voice-over, “am I walking in a dream?”. Is she waking in a dream? “I drift.” Michael Fassbender, macho, romantic, playful, exploitative, love or lust? Contrasting Ryan Gosling, younger, playful, more love than lust?
Scripted, improvised, director in control.
Snippets can mean narrative, contributing to a story: beginning, middle, end, but not necessarily in that order. In the end is the beginning.
Threesome, love, joy, play. Fidelity forever. Human nature – suggesting not, rather, betrayal.
Suddenly, Natalie Portman, luminous, love, fidelity, hopes. That’s Holly Hunter as her mother.
Mexico, peasants, music, the contrast with the American metropolis, affluence, ordinariness, academic auditoria, concert arenas. Performance, backstage, Val Kilmer and wild hair.
Who is that from Paris? The lesbian relationship. Rooney Mara, did she, could she?
130 minutes of handheld camera, motion, variety of angles, framing, editing cuts (three editors in the final credits), speed, cause and effect, juxtapositions – to what purpose?
And Cate Blanchett? Divorce, children, Ryan Gosling? Connections? Children, playing, parents, ageing and dying.
Clips from old movies. Scenes of cosmic beauty (this is, after all, Terrence Malick), days of heaven.
Is this Malick’s visual poem, thematic dream, extended visual installation?
And the reviewer in the audience watching, listening, experiencing, much to appreciate, much to endure, but how much to comprehend? And does it matter? For a lover of story, yes!
Roadshow Release 5th October
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.