Saturday, October 20, 2012
Town and Country (Neighboring Sounds and Liberal Arts)
There aren't as many characters in Neighboring Sounds as there are in films like Nashville or Short Cuts, yet the movie sustains a sophisticated visual and aural technique (plenty of panning zooms, or zooming pans) that envelopes you the way Altman's films often did. It doesn't resonate as much as those movies - or films like Inarritu's Amores Perros and Haneke's Cache, both of which Mendonca Filho also appears to reference - but Neighboring Sounds still offers a fascinating glimpse of a foreign culture filled with a few sparks of recognition.
Jesse strikes up a friendship - and, later, when he returns to New York, an epistolary correspondence - with Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year-old theater major whose name suggests the kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl that the character, as written and played, thankfully belies. She's a real person, not a fantasy; and Radnor navigates all the traps deftly, aware of the obstacles in such a relationship but also not automatically nullifying the possibility of its working. Liberal Arts could have been a Doc Hollywood kind of comedy, where the protagonist finds happiness in a utopia far away from the big city. But if New York bewilders Jesse at times, he sees beauty and potential there too.