Emmanuel Lubezki’s new work, “Song to Song,” arrives on the Railroad Square screen this week, and is visually a thing of beauty, as are all of the great cinematographer’s efforts. (“Gravity,” “The New World,” and “Birdman” especially.)

“Song” is a two hour, very long panorama of vast, gorgeously attended estates, massive swimming pools, green lawns and fields of cabbages and corn; oil fields, sweeping shots of the homes of the very rich — the kind of rich that draw their largess from the world of music, country, jazz and rock.

Lubezki’s camera swoops and leaps, swirls and pirouettes, desperately trying to keep up with the dancing, cavorting, improvising, chatting, noodling and fornicating principal actors Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling, familiar faces all.

Fassbender is Cook, a multi-millionaire music producer — stalwart, sensitive, complex, sexually confused and maybe just a little new age spiritual. It’s just difficult to know which one he is at any given moment.

Gosling, as BV, is a struggling songwriter — quiet, complex and sensitive as well.

BV is in love with roadie and wanna be performer Faye, a perpetually bland Rooney Mara. Despite her fondness for BV, she likes to dampen the expensive sheets with Cook from time to time, but also trips the light fantastic with an adorable lesbian named Zoey (Berenice Marlohe of “Skyfall”).


Cate Blanchett and Holly Hunter also move through the film without very much to do.

I stayed awake precisely to see what they would do, and fell back asleep after seeing Hunters’ freak out in a parking lot.

It’s hard to tell exactly who Rooney is in love with, so empty and watery her performance is. Remember, this is the Rooney Mara who took all the sex, zing and mystery out of the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

She has a line so familiar that I had to recheck who said it first: “I took sex, a gift, I played with it. I played with the flame of life.” Was it Edna St. Vincent Millay, or Sandra Dee?

“Song” reminds us a bit of Francois Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim,” but just a bit, as no one here is anywhere as delightful as Jeanne Moreau and Oskar Werner.

Besides, this all goes down in, of all places, Austin, Texas.


OH WAIT! Is that Natalie Portman miscast here as sexy, flirtatious Rhonda, a Texas townie waitress? Things are looking up … and then down again.

Aging stoners will be shocked to see what’s happened to Patti Smith and a shirtless, sagging Iggy Pop, dug up and propped into place to reminisce.

Okay, I’ve been pulling your leg. You knew all along that “Song to Song” is of course the work of the fabled writer and director Terrence Malick, who years ago gave us two very good, sweet, melodic and haunting movies: “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven.” Yes, they were long and at times, ponderous, but with big doses of energy and passion.

And then came “The Thin Red Line,” which was interesting. Next there was “To The Wonder” and “The Tree of Life,” which for this reviewer signaled the moment Malick went off the tracks.

“Song,” despite Lubezki’s masterful camera, is one long, monotonous improvisation of movement and scattered philosophical bon mots. So what happened? Where did the great Malick go off key here?

If it’s true that Benicio del Toro, Christian Bale and Arcade Fire were sliced from the first eight hour cut, that explains it all.

I miss Julia Roberts.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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