Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

(On Cable TV, October 2014)  The only thing worse than a film that goes nowhere is a film that initially seems to go somewhere, and then doesn’t.  To its credit (or, if you’d rather, as a sole reason why you may want to see the movie despite it not going anywhere), Berberian Sound Studio begins with an intriguing half-hour.  During the 1970s, a British sound engineer ends up at an Italian recording studio where he is surprised to find out that he’s been hired to work on a horror movie.  Strange and off-putting events then occur.  And that’s pretty much it as a plot summary, because there is no resolution, no climax, and no point to it all.  Beyond the intriguing re-creation of a sound recording process (complete with seventies-era fetishism for knobs, sliders, buttons and magnetic tape), Berberian Sound Studio is all weirdness and no pay-off.  Too bad for Toby Jones: his usual nebbish persona fits perfectly as a lonely middle-aged sound engineer thrust completely out of his element.  But writer/director Peter Strickland seems to have forgotten to include the last third of the script, and the result is more frustrating than is deserved.  What’s infuriating is that there are neat tricks here and there: we never see a frame of the movie they’re working on beyond its credits sequence; there’s nary a violent act to be seen (only heard, often through violent disassembly of vegetables), a few sequences definitely feel off-putting.  But the film gets less and less interesting as it goes on, only to end abruptly at the point where most other films would start delivering answers or scares.  Cinephiles (especially those with knowledge and fondness for giallo) will like Berberian Sound Studio a lot more than general audiences.

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