In this modern day love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples--struggling songwriters Faye and BV, and music mogul Cook and the waitress he ensnares--chase success through a rock 'n' roll landscape of seduction betrayal.
If you've seen any Terrence Malick films since Tree of Life, you've come to expect a fish-eyed lens that follows its characters and storylines like that famous Forest Gump feather, floating from scene to scene as a spectator. This is Malick's style now and we have to get used to it. Since Tree of Life and on through To The Wonder and Knight of Cups, we fly through a story of many characters and their strange and conflicted lives without much dialogue. In fact, barely any dialogue is ever spoken in these films. Instead, the actors narrate their feelings as we get tons of beautiful shots of architecture, scenery and these characters walking slowly in different landscapes. It's very poetic and stunning to look at, but if you're looking for a straight to the point narrative film, these movies are not your cup of tea.
Malick's latest film Song to Song follows this style to a tee, but has a backdrop of the Austin Music Fest scene. If I were to describe Song to Song, I'd say that the film follows Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara, two people working in the music scene who seem to fall in love. However, Mara is involved with a big music producer (Michael Fassbender), who has a sex life like the famous rock stars he handles. A love triangle ensues and conflict arises in each of these people's lives.
Add to the mix Natalie Portman, who plays a waitress Fassbender seduces to orgies and the life of the wealthy music scene. That synopsis right there is more narrative you will get then if you watch the film, but that's Malick's style. You're a fly on the wall, or in this case, flying around in front of these characters as they slowly walk or drive somewhere, as someone narrates the tone and feel of the film to you. It's an acquired taste for sure, but it's beautiful, tasteful, different, and full of great music and actual musicians like Iggy Pop.
Nothing is ever really at stake in these Malick movies, but rather a soft reading of a poem in visual form, which is very difficult to keep your interest. In my opinion, Malick is a genius who is doing things in film that nobody ever has done and succeeding at them. We're lucky to have someone like Malick, and with his ode to the Austin Music Fest scene, Song to Song tells a creepy story with flawed characters to the backdrop of excellent music.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Song to Song comes with comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc and a Region A locked Blu-ray Disc. There are no inserts or digital download here. The discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve too.
Song to Song comes with a 2160p UHD transfer and is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I'm so happy that a Terrence Malick film is on 4K UHD finally and let's hope that his catalog of films will soon make their way to the ever growing format. There is certainly a lot to see here in the form of colors and detail. Shooting big concert sequences with many concert-goers jumping around to the interiors of night clubs, and the rustic and free feeling Austin vibe, Malick's fish-eyed, wandering camera captures every detail and color very well.
Colors are bright and vibrant in the night clubs and look very realistic in the heavily attended outdoor concert scenes. The different many-colored clothing is all distinguishable and full. In other scenes, there is a cooler color palette that emphasizes blues and grays, giving a more monotone or dreary style. Each color is well-balanced and saturated, though. Black levels are deep and inky, however, in the nightclub scenes, these darker colors bleed a tiny bit. Skin tones though are very natural.
Detail is very sharp and vivid with great facial features that show makeup blemishes, wrinkles, freckles, and facial pores in closeups. Due to Malick's style, things almost seem in 3D here without the darker image. Wider shots always show the dirt and dust kicked up at the concerts and the great architecture in Austin. This isn't the most visually pleasing Malick film, but this 4K Disc certainly showcases his unique style whether you like it or not. Lastly, there were no issues with banding, aliasing, or video noise, leaving this UHD Disc with great marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. There is no 7.1 or Atmos track either, which is fairly strange for a new film on the 4K UHD format. Like other Malick films, there is a title card that basically says the film will have a better viewing experience if you turn up the volume. This is true for Song to Song. There isn't a ton of dialogue in Song to Song, much like the past few Malick films, but when there is, it's very soft-spoken with flashes of normal dialogue volume. This is a style choice and not a transfer or audio issue. In fact, this track sounds great.
The music is the highlight here. Live concert audio with the audience filling in the surrounds are excellent and full. Music in the clubs and high-end homes also bring an immersive experience. There is a subtle low end with bass that has a soft thump in the concert scenes and adds a bit of depth in almost a dreamlike state. Other sound effects and ambient noises of city life and people rocking out to music sound robust and full. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow along, even with the softer dialogue. There were no pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills to speak of, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
Song to Song is not for everyone. Terrence Malick is certainly an acquired taste, like a very peaty whisky, but like whisky, Malick and his films have aged well with the man himself and are beautiful poetry on the screen. He's a master with his camera where every single shot looks beautiful and should be framed on a wall somewhere. It's not his best work, but Song to Song has some great moments and visuals. The video and audio presentations are both very good, but the only extra is a two-minute montage of interviews about the music of the film. Still, it's great to have Malick movies in 4K now. If you're a fan of Malick, give this one a rent.