MUBI Review: ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ and The Power of Sound

This review is part of our coverage for MUBI’s August 2019 slate.

“Which reel?”

“Forget the reel. I just need to scream. That’s all.”

There is no denial that Peter Strickland is emerging as one of the strongest contemporary genre filmmakers of the UK. With the kaleidoscopic The Duke of Burgundy and his most recent In Fabric, he displays his talent for something that one usually connects with the great genre filmmakers of the likes of Argento, De Palma and co., whose influence he wears proudly. Strickland has the sensibility to craft a thoroughly entertaining film that specifically concentrates on its aesthetic ideas and weaves them into central narrative concerns without running into danger of being gimmicky.

While In Fabric is fascinated with the image of a cursed piece of cloth on an elegant shop counter, and Duke of Burgundy with a submissive maid dusting off the glass of a butterfly collection, Strickland’s breakout film Berberian Sound Studio is invested into the texture of sound technology and the image of a woman screaming in silence.

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[North Bend Film Festival] ‘Extra Ordinary’ Weaves A Touching Tale About Grief and Ghosts

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who are you gonna call? Rosa’s Driving Service, at least in the world of Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s feature film debut, Extra Ordinary. Their first feature is a touching and hilarious tale about one woman trying to run from her paranormal gifts, one father trying to save his daughter and placate his dead wife, and one washed up rockstar who turns to the Devil for success.

Rosa (Maeve Higgins) is the daughter of a deceased ghost expert. She possesses gifts to commune with the dead, but chooses to avoid them, turning to her driving school instead. She passes her days educating people how to drive cars, her evenings eating yogurt, sitting on her exercise ball, and listening to messages of people begging for her ghost services. Yet, she has sworn off the paranormal ever since the death of father, bent on living a normal life sans ghosts. However, that all changes when she meets Martin Martin (Barry Ward), a father haunted by his dead wife who nags him even from beyond the grave.

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Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Nightingale’ Carefully Treads Through a Maze of Trauma

Editor’s note: this piece contains references to racial violence and sexual assault

Tasmania in 1825 was a British penal colony. England shipped its prisoners to its wilderness, a wilderness that they stole from Tasmania’s native population. England abused prisoners and Aboriginals alike, treating them like livestock. In Jennifer Kent’s second feature film, The Nightingale, she navigates the colonial atrocities performed by the British and creates a film that wishes to directly address the cruelty of past while also encouraging empathy for the victims of such violence.

Clare (Aisling Franciosi) is an Irish woman who has been on the island for seven years. She was first sent to prison, then purchased by Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin). Hawkins has taken a special liking to Clare, routinely assaulting her after he’s had something to drink. Despite her requests for freedom after her marriage and the birth of her daughter, Hawkins clings to her like a starved leech, sucking out whatever life Clare has left. This culminates in a horrific act of violence that leaves Clare alone and full of rage. She hires Aboriginal tracker, Billy (newcomer Baykali Ganambarr), to guide her through the wilderness to catch up the soldiers and enact her revenge. 

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Fantasia 2019 Review: Terrifying Japanese Ghost Story ‘Stare’ Won’t Let You Look Away

First, the lights start to flicker. Then, you hear a quiet tinkling of bells. You turn to find the source of the noise and find a woman hiding in the shadows. Her face is covered with long, black hair and her hands are pressed together in front of her. As she gets closer, she looks up and reveals her unnaturally large eyes. This is the last thing you see before she claims your eyes. This is Shirai-san, the ghost of Otsuichi’s newest film, Stare, which premiered this year at Fantasia. 

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Fantasia 2019 Review: Step Into A Different Kind of Post Apocalyptic World in ‘Riot Girls’

In a world without parents, kids actually know what they’re doing for the most part. They can take care of each other, find the basics of survival, and make life work in a land without adults. But, without parents, the typical teenage tensions of jock versus punk bubble up into violent rivalries. This is the world of Jovanka Vuckovic’s Riot Girls. Her feature-film debut is jocks vs. punks, east side vs. west side, rich vs. poor, all in the name of survival. Yet, despite these rivalries, Riot Girls is still a hilarious and colorful film that lets kids be kids while also kicking major ass.

It is an alternate version of 1995. A strange wasting disease has wiped out all of the adults. This has left kids to fend for themselves and form alliances. Here, the poor kids live on the east side of town, while the rich jocks live on the west side. On the east side, we meet Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski) and Nat (Madison Iseman), two punks trying to have fun in the face of a terrifying reality. Scratch sports a tall mohawk, Nat wears thick eyeliner, and both wear leather jackets covered in patches and spikes. Punk never dies, even in the face of the apocalypse. However, they must dig deep into their punk sensibilities when Nat’s brother and the group’s leader, Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois), is kidnapped by the west side jocks, also known as the Titans.

The Titans, ruled with an iron fist by Jeremy (Munro Chambers), the oldest kid in town, live in the local high school and train kids to be ruthless fighters. Meanwhile, the east side has a much more relaxed approach, treating each other as equals and living in harmony without dictator-like rule. This is a story of jocks versus nerds and outcasts taken to the extreme. The jocks, of course, rule the school, wear letter jackets like military uniforms, and collect weapons like candy. The outcasts have a more DIY approach, not unlike the punk movement. They don’t have many vehicles, they use bats are protection, and their “uniforms” are band t shirts and leather jackets emblazoned with phrases like “Eat the Rich.”

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Fantasia 2019 Review: Dive Into South African Horror and Folklore in ‘8: A South African Horror’

So often, American film tropes are looked to as the golden standard, a potential guide for international filmmakers who want to make it big in Hollywood. But there is nothing more satisfying than seeing an indie horror film that is not from the U.S. utilize certain tropes in order to highlight a unique story. This is the case in Harold Hölscher’s feature film debut, 8: A South African Horror. Hölscher gives a well-tread story of worlds colliding a breath of fresh air by incorporating South African folklore, racial tensions, and beautiful visuals. 8, while not persistently scary, is a melancholy fairytale the likes of which the Grimm Brothers have never seen.

The film begins in 1977 with a downtrodden trio heading to their new home. Couple William (Garth Breytenbach) and Sarah (Inge Beckmann) have taken in his sister’s child, Mary (Keita Luna), after her parents’ deaths. Each is full of their own sadness, from mourning parents to mourning the inability to become pregnant. But this farm will be a fresh start for them, a place where they’ll come together as a family. Then, they meet Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), a mysterious man who lives in the woods surrounding the farm who carries a suspiciously large bag. He asks William for a job, explaining that he once worked for William’s father and would love to help in anyway he can. Mary and Lazarus strike up a friendship, finding understanding and compassion in one another. Yet, he is not what he seems.

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Fantasia 2019 Review: ‘Harpoon’ is a Deeply Disturbing and Darkly Comedic Look at Male Entitlement

It all starts with a harpoon, a spear-like weapon used for fishing that can pierce flesh at astonishing speeds. So it makes sense to gift a harpoon to your friend with anger management issues, right? This is how Rob Grant’s newest film, Harpoon, opens, with a simple gift to an angry man. What ensues is a tale of resentment, friendship, and toxic masculinity on the open sea.

Richard (Christopher Gray), Jonah (Munro Chambers), and Sasha (Emily Tyra) are a trio of misfit friends with a rocky history. Richard is wealthy and has an extremely short temper, which was inherited from his father. Jonah is mopey and was constantly berated by his parents, until they died. Sasha, Richard’s girlfriend, is their reluctant caretaker who must play the referee between their antics. And we are introduced to this strange trio in a moment of violence: Richard beating Jonah’s face in while Sasha screams for him to stop all over a misunderstood text message. They explain they were texting about Richard’s birthday present, a harpoon with a mahogany handle. 

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