A new Texas Monthly feature about elusive auteur filmmaker Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven, Tree of Life) explores his shadowy biography and the making of his newest film Song to Song through secondary sources. It’s only fitting that it would delve into Malick’s musical taste as well: Song to Song, which premieres at SXSW tonight, centers around the music scene in his hometown of Ausin, and features appearances by Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Lydon, The Black Lips, Diplo, and more.
In the piece, writer Eric Benson details Malick’s classical music fandom, prevalent since a young age; according to a family friend of Malick’s, the director particularly enjoyed Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals (used prominently in Days of Heaven) in his college days. Blurry YouTube footage of Malick squaredancing in a bar in 2012 suggests the director also appreciates old-time country music. But these examples are meant to serve as a mere prelude for the coup de grâce of Benson’s tale of Malick’s musical education: The 73-year-old filmmaker is supposedly an admirer of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” as Vulture points out.
The claim comes from an old family friend of Malick’s:
“He’ll make these wild associations that really surprise me,” said [film producer] Ed Pressman’s son, Sam, a director and producer who fondly remembers Thanksgiving dinners with Malick at the property Ecky once owned on Lake Austin. “You’ll hear him say something like, ‘I just heard this Jason Derulo song, “Talk Dirty.” I haven’t heard a love song like this before.’ And you’ll think to yourself, ‘That’s so weird, that’s such a shitty pop song.’ And then you’ll listen to it again and you’ll hear this Turkish lick, and you’ll say, ‘Actually, that seemingly innocuous pop song has something really cool to it.’”
This is somewhat amazing: Not only is Malick capable of opening his viewers’ minds to new, inventive ways of telling stories using the language of cinema, he can also teach holier-than-thou young people that it’s okay to just enjoy pop music. According to the piece, Malick also finds artistic merit in low-brow movies Deep Blue Sea and Zoolander–how novel! You could look at him as a mad eccentric genius for this. Or, perhaps, you could just consider him a normal, artistically curious guy with a variety of interests, who happens to make really bizarre movies and hate being photographed.
Read the full Texas Monthly profile here.