Once discussed by cinephiles chiefly in tones of hushed reverence, Terrence Malick has taken a critical kicking in recent years, with many arguing that he’s been sliding towards self-parody since The Tree of Life. Set against the alluring backdrop of the Austin music scene, Song to Song is the final part of a trilogy about soul-searching in contemporary America. Like preceding instalments To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, it’s a dense, impressionistic a ffair, which takes troubled romantic relationships as a starting point, but soon morphs into an abstract meditation on what it means to be human. The directorial tics that have raised the hackles of Malick’s detractors are here in abundance – the fragmentary voice-over narration, the strangely underutilised A-list cast, the heavy-handed religious imagery. Indeed, the collective groan of derision that greeted the final scene, an unwitting baptism of sorts, is the most vocal response I’ve ever heard from Berlin’s typically stone-silent critics. And yet, this is too confounding and inquisitive a work of art to simply cynically dismiss. Malick’s wide-eyed idealism might feel like a quaint relic from a bygone era, but there’s currently no other American filmmaker expressing their world view on such a grand, sumptuous scale. Song to Song is also punctuated by moments of self-aware humour, which might placate those who found its predecessors too po-faced.
Song to Song | Directed by Terrence Malick (USA 2017) with Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender. Starts May 25
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