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Song to Song (2017)
4K UHD Released: 7/4/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/10/2017
Has anyone in Hollywood had a weirder career than Terrence Malick? After making his feature-film in 1973 with the film Badlands, he made his next movie in 1978 with Days of Heaven. He would then take a 20-year hiatus, returning with The Thin Red Line. Since that time, the reclusive director has worked with somewhat more regularity and in recent years, he's been relatively busy. The question is, Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Malick's style has become such a part of his movies, that the film's are almost indistinguishable. He really seems to be copying himself with Song to Song.
(OK, here we go...) BV (Ryan Gosling) and Cook (Michael Fassbender) both work in the music industry (I think that Cook is a promoter or an agent.) They are both attracted to Faye (Rooney Mara), but she chooses BV. Cook then begins a relationship with Rhonda (Natalie Portman).
Well, there you go, that's the story of Song to Song. Should I repeat it in case you missed something? Malick's recent films have not been known for their deep stories (more on that in a moment), but Song to Song is especially shallow. The emphasis here is on relationships with the music scene as the backdrop. That would be fine if there was any depth to the script. (And I use that term loosely. I can only imagine that the shooting script was only about 10 pages.) So, what we get is shot after shot of couples standing around looking at each other and touching each other. Sometimes they are indoors, but to shake things up, sometimes they are outdoors. The story here isn't too hard to grasp -- boy meets girl, boy loses girl. I didn't expect a Shyamalan-like plot twist or a espionage-filled story, but there simply isn't enough story here to maintain a short film, much less a 2-hour movie.
There was much made of Malick's second comeback of sort with 2011'sTree of Life. This was the movie which re-introduced Malick's unique style of filmmaking. And while I wasn't crazy about that movie, his approach worked much better there. For one thing, that movie, which dealt with the friction between a father and his sons, had more story. Secondly, there were enough ups and downs portrayed to create some emotion, and the bizarre whispered voice-over approach used by Malick gave us insight into what the characters were thinking and feeling. (Of course, that move was stymied by a sudden shift to the creation of the universe, but one can easily fast-forward through that.)
Malick applies this same approach to Song to Song and the result is pure tedium. Again, the movie is simply one scene after another of people either standing backstage at concerts or standing around. There is a smattering of dialogue, but for the most part, we are treated to the whispered voiceovers. But, this never amounts to anything. If you were shown some snippets of the movie, you would be hard-pressed to determine if this is a feature film or a perfume commercial. The lack of story and the repetitious style leads to a film which is robbed of any emotional impact whatsoever. Obviously, Malick is making the movie which he wants to make, but he shoots himself in the foot with this style. A character does die in the movie and it has no impact whatsoever. Not only is it unemotional, but due to the way that the movie is shot, it's actually difficult to tell what has happened.
So, at this point, a question must be asked, how does Malick keep attracting well-known movie stars to his projects. Are they simply that excited about working with Malick? It certainly can't be because anything in the script got their attention. Whatever the answer, I can tell you that there is a lot of wasted talent here. I'm actually not a fan of some the performers featured here, but I know that their abilities would be better served in a movie with more purpose. (And let's not talk about Val Kilmer's 30-second cameo.) Some well-known and not so well-known musician wander through the movie, but this only serves to side-track the movie and give it a quasi-documentary feel. If you were able to sit throughTo The Wonder or Knight of Cups, then I'm sure that you'll find something to like about Song to Song. Otherwise, I'm beginning to think that you either like Terence Malick's movies or you have good taste.
Song to Song is another movie in which Ryan Gosling wears bad shoes on 4K UHD courtesy of Broadgreen Pictures. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 45 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain or defects from the source materials. Malick shoots his movies in a very natural style, and this allows realistic colors to shine through in this transfer and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the characters are nicely defined from the backgrounds here. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There is a creative use of surround sound here for the whispering, as it comes from various speakers at times. Otherwise, it's a fairly standard track, with some occasional stereo or surround effects to highlight sounds coming from off-screen. (It should be noted that while this is a serviceable technical presentation, the bitrate numbers are pretty low for a 4K Disc.)
The lone extra here is found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "The Music Behind the Movie" (2 minutes) has the producers and some of the actors talking about shooting at a real music festival in Austin and what it was like to have real musicians in the film.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long