In Ter­rence Mal­ick-land, no one can hear Fass­ben­der scream

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

SONG TO SONG Di­rected by Ter­rence Mal­ick. Star­ring Michael Fass­ben­der, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Port­man, Cate Blanchett, Lykke Li, Val Kilmer. Club, Triskel Cork, 129mins

There comes a mo­ment in Ter­rence Mal­ick’s lat­est, poor­est cin­e­matic ven­ture when Michael Fass­ben­der, play­ing an ill-de­fined mu­sic mogul on an ill-de­fined hol­i­day, be­gins hop­ping and gam­bolling about like a chim­panzee. It’s a wor­ry­ing spec­ta­cle, leav­ing the viewer to pon­der whether he is fak­ing it to get out of this dread­ful movie, or if the dire­ness of the project around him has brought about a gen­uinely psy­chotic episode.

If Mal­ick’s King of Cups and vast stretches of To the Won­der felt like the out­takes from per­fume com­mer­cials, Song to

Song is the out­takes from those out­takes, an in­co­her­ent mud­dle of fall­ing leaves and cameos and track­ing shots with no par­tic­u­lar place to go. Ev­ery­thing is. Shot in. In­fu­ri­at­ing. El­lipses. Ac­com­pa­nied by. Dazed, cod-po­etic. Voice-over. De­liv­ered by. Ac­tors who. Sound as if. Conor McGre­gor just caught them with an up­per-cut. Em­manuel Lubezki’s pretty wide-an­gle pho­tog­ra­phy is ac­cord­ingly tipsy.

Song to Song ap­par­ently con­cerns a love tri­an­gle be­tween an as­pir­ing singer-song­writer (Gosling), his boss (Fass­ben­der) and the sec­re­tary-dog-walker (Mara) who is sleep­ing with them both, ev­i­dently as an ill-thought-out ca­reer move. She is also a bud­ding song­writer. Such vi­tal in­for­ma­tion, how­ever, may only be gleaned through the film’s pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als, be­cause it sure as hell isn’t in the movie.

Tak­ing cues from Tommy Wiseau’s no­to­ri­ous 2003 film The Room, Fass­ben­der’s char­ac­ter isn’t named un­til the clos­ing cred­its, and other char­ac­ters wan­der in and out like it’s an A-list in­stal­ment of Noel’s House Party. That’s not Mr Blobby, we think: that’s Iggy Pop. Was that Val Kilmer? Cate Blanchett is do­ing what now? Oh, she’s gone al­ready; never mind.

Many dresses are un­zipped, with power-bal­lad slow­ness and a f*ck­less­ness that ac­ci­den­tally re­calls the fa­mous Naked Gun safe sex scene. Every­body lives in mod­ern chrome and glass min­i­mal­ist mar­vels, ap­par­ently con­structed for over-the-shoul­der cin­e­matog­ra­phy and hous­ing un­used kitchens. The nar­ra­tion gets sil­lier by the sec­ond. Mara opens with fluid teen-jour­nalese (“I went through a pe­riod where sex had to be vi­o­lent: I was des­per­ate to feel some­thing real”) and quickly de­scends into 1970s Euro­vi­sion break-up song speak: “Thought we’d build each other up, make mu­sic to­gether” or “Birds would like to fly for­ever”.

Re­mem­ber when Ter­rence Mal­ick movies hap­pened once in a ge­o­log­i­cal age? God be with the days.

How did we get here? Rooney Mara, Michael Fass­ben­der and Ryan Gosling in Song to Song

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