Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Berberian Sound Studio

This is the proverbial curate's egg of a film: Good in parts.

The story is straightforward: In the 1970s A British soundman, Gilderoy, is hired by an Italian director to work on his film, where the dialogue (we never see the images) suggests something akin to Dario Argento's horror films Suspiria or Inferno, but which the director insists is an auteur rather than a genre work.

Peter Strickland's direction and writing initially impress. He clearly knows his stuff, whether the faux solarised and rotoscoped titles (think A Bay of Blood); the close-ups of reel to reel tape recorders (think A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Deep Red); the black leather gloved hand (think just about any giallo) that starts the projector running, or the red telephone (think Blood and Black Lace) used by a receptionist.

If you're a fan of gialli and horror all'italiana (likely for readers of this blog) you'll enjoy playing spot the possible hommage or intertext , whether Clap You're Dead, Closed Circuit, Watch Me When I Kill. If you're not a lot of the imagery and dialogue will simply go past you.

The big problem with the film (besides the absence of the J&B or Punt e mes bottle) is that that it doesn't really go anywhere. Weird shit happens to Gilderoy, much as weird shit happens to Suzy Banyon in Suspiria, but it is not developed.

The two things that rescue the film are the performance by Toby Jones, as someone far removed from the typical male lead, and the attention paid to sound design. Michel Chion would love this film, with its exposure of tricking the ear techniques.

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