Friday evening saw South by Southwest open with Terrence Malick‘s long and eagerly awaited music poem Song to Song. The film – a romantic love letter centering on those entwined in the Austin music scene – packs major star power in the form of photogenic and Oscar nominated actors Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender and, in typical contemporary Malick form appears to have charmed some attendees while alienating others.
The SXSW opener for Malick’s latest is apropos considering the setting but a contrast to the reclusive filmmaker’s typical bows which usually debut on European turf (like Cannes or Venice or Berlin). The film, an improvised, experimental tale that follows the love triangle between a music executive (Fassbender), his business partner (Gosling) and the ingenue (Mara) caught in the middle. The starry cast also includes Oscar winner Natalie Portman and two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (both of whom co-starred in Malick’s Knight of Cups) and features cameos by Val Kilmer and music legends Patti Smith and Iggy Pop. The Wrap was quick to reveal that Christian Bale (the star of Knight of Cups), Benicio del Toro and Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train) were missing from the film despite rumors to the contrary.
While reportedly light on music, Song to Song appeared to dazzle some in attendance at the SXSW premiere while distancing others. Which is a pattern for the filmmaker as of late, who is experiencing a prolific boom; Malick made just four films in the first four decades of his career and has made five (and is readying a sixth) in the past decade. Malick received an Oscar nomination (and was awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes) for his 2011 art house hit The Tree of Life. Since then, he’s directed the romantic drama To the Wonder (starring Ben Affleck), Knight of Cups and the doc Voyage of Time – all of which received mixed critical reaction and little commercial play.
While formal reviews for Song to Song have yet to be released, early tweets suggest Song to Song may experience a similar fate.
My SONG TO SONG review banked til tomorrow but it’s all kinds of fantastic. Don’t listen to Ehrlich on this one!
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) March 11, 2017
I didn’t like SONG TO SONG at all, but at least it’s an artist with a distinctive voice doing his thing. Not for me. Glad people like it.
— Jacob Hall (@JacobSHall) March 11, 2017
SONG TO SONG: gorgeous, poetic & chaotic. A film about how love floats through our lives like songs. We need it until we don’t want it#sxsw
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) March 11, 2017
SONG 2 SONG: Malick’s twirling horndog phase climaxes with an exasperating whimper, but story about the inertia of drifting suits his style.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) March 11, 2017
Song to Song opens in theaters on March 17th, courtesy of Broad Green Pictures.