★★★☆☆

LOVE him or hate him, auteur Terrence Malick used to only make films once in a blue moon – it was famously 20 years between 1978’s Days of Heaven and 1998’s The Thin Red Line – but now we get new films from him in fairly quick succession.

Following the largely derided Knight of Cups and particularly experimental Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, his latest undoubtedly indulgent, narratively sparse and visually beautiful free-wheeling piece of cinema sees him once again in thoroughly modern Malick mode that will infuriate those who already can’t stand him and challenge those still willing to cling on board.

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The plot, such as it is, focuses on the love triangle between up-and-coming songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), both left, and overbearing music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) who ensnares beautiful wide-eyed waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman).

The lives of these lost souls become entangled against the backdrop of the bustling Austin, Texas music scene.

In many ways you get out of Malick’s films what you bring to it and Song to Song is no different. His almost spiritually indulgent, evocative and singular style is a challenge; the dialogue is enigmatic and strange in both portentous, often whispered voice-overs and utterings between the characters, brought to life with performances that seem to play on the actors’ good looks and starry personas. It’s a film that challenges you to engage, however frustrating its style may make it to do so.

It’s the strongest sense of time and place that Malick has conjured since his masterpiece The Tree of Life, whisking us on a star-studded mosaic journey of love, lust and pained longing where the music blares loud, the surroundings are lit with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s beautiful light and Val Kilmer turns up at one point with a chainsaw.

It may be self-indulgent but this is the sort of film you don’t see every week.

By this point it’s pretty clear that this is the Malick we’re stuck with and I’d rather have someone whose work evokes a strong sense of personality like this than something that toes the line. His latest is as rewarding as it is vexing, creating a world that sits halfway between an allusive dream half remembered upon waking and a handsome perfume advert that’s at once alluring and a peculiarly, dramatically intangible.