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Song to Song

2017-05-26 09:30

What it's about:

Set around the music scene in Austin, Texas, a group of young musicians, music producers and general bystanders fall in and out of love with each other.

What we thought:

It's a particularly brilliant stroke of luck that Song to Song hits our cinemas the same week that the verhy-very-very-long-awaited new episodes of Twin Peaks came out because, frankly folks, without this interesting comparison to ground me, I would have no earthly idea how to review Terrence Malick's latest unbearably indulgent non-film.

Both the new season of Twin Peaks and Song to Song represent their respective creators being allowed to cut loose and indulge in their own, very particular and often extremely alienating directorial visions. The new Twin Peaks – or what little we've seen of it so far – eschews much of the familiarity of the original series for something far weirder, far darker and far more indulgent. It's the sort of move that all but guarantees a large number of long-time fans jumping ship long before the series makes its reported (at least partial) return to the crazy mix of surrealism, soap opera and goofy comedy that defined the original.

For me, and many like me, though, Twin Peaks: The Return is the return of David Lynch after far too many years without anything really new from him. Even his last directorial effort, Inland Empire, which I've yet to see, much to my shame, didn't make it to many cinemas when it was released over a decade ago. This new series uses his most popular fictional world to create something that is basically a culmination of Lynch's entire career: disturbing, challenging, funny, surreal, self-indulgent, sexy, violent, goofy, impenetrable and incredibly visceral.

This puts the opening acts of Twin Peaks in stark contrast to Song to Song. If Twin Peaks showed an uncompromised, unrestrained David Lynch to be arguably pretentious but also inarguably intriguing, engaging and entertaining with a particularly unique take on both the most transcendent and most deplorable aspects of human existence, Song to Song – like its two predecessors – showed a similarly uncompromised and unrestrained Terrence Malick to be inarguably pretentious but also with nothing whatsoever of value to say.

It's almost as if his admirable exploration of spirituality and the human condition in the otherwise intolerable Tree of Life has left him utterly bereft of any substance whatsoever, as beginning with Tree of Life's followup, To the Wonder, and continuing to Song to Song, which may well be the absolute nadir of his entire career (though I am still lucky enough not to have seen Knight of Cups) Malick has reduced his entire schtick to filming his very beautiful and undeniably A-list cast doing not very much at all for well over two hours, while entirely random editing and interminably stupid, mumbled, meaningless voice-overs are clearly used to try and mask just how woefully empty it all is. That certain critics still find anything even remotely profound, let alone enjoyable, about this waffling nonsense is beyond me. 

Sure, it all looks and sounds pretty good – though for all of its almost voyeuristic fascination with the faces and bodies of Beautiful People, it's remarkably unsexy – but there's just no there there. Pretentious self-indulgence doesn't have to be a bad thing – and, as Twin Peaks has shown, it can actually be profoundly compelling – but when there is absolutely nothing but pretentious self indulgence, as is so clearly the case with Song to Song, it makes even the worst Hollywood dreck look tolerable in comparison. 

And, no, the addition of actual music legends like Iggy Pop and Patti Smith doesn't help one bit. They just end up looking bad by association.

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