A single affluent block in the oceanfront city of Recife, Brazil, and its residents are the subject of Neighboring Sounds, writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho's arresting, energetically oblique debut. A Recife native, Filho has taken what he knows about lives lived in the shadow of fading sugar dynasties and translated it into a film that marries classical gloss and omnibus scope with an invigorated, keenly sensory approach. Security is of premium concern on this block: Housewife Bia (Maeve Jinkings) is driven to an existential torment by a neighbor dog's ceaseless barking; courtly playboy João (Gustavo Jahn) is mortified when his new girlfriend's (Irma Brown) car is burgled outside his home; and a pop-up home-security outfit led by a working-class hustler (Irandhir Santos) sets up an overnight watch to keep a paranoid community "safe." A host of characters (including a former sugar baron played by W.J. Solha) is more layered than interwoven, each one revealed only in sidelong fragments. A tightening of the two-hour-plus running time might have enhanced the balance between Filho's epic, evocative style and his smaller story about a certain mode of modern life, its lonely confrontations, and the stubborn legacies of the past.
Listening to the sound of distress?
Opens Fri., Sept. 21 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Not rated. 124 minutes.