Thursday, December 27, 2012

Capsule Reviews: Girl Walk//All Day, Sound of Noise, Sound of My Voice

Girl Walk//All Day (Jacob Krupnick, 2012)

Watching Jacob Krupnick’s Girl Walk//All Day, my focus was initially drawn less to Anne Marsen’s wide-smiling, unashamed dancer than the parade of awkward smiles and uncomfortable glances of the real pedestrians of New York among whom she leaps and twirls and slams. But what would a portrait of New York City be without some crazy person making the average person on the street alternately amused and anxious? Girl Walk//All Day gradually builds as it wears on, Marsen’s infectious energy spreading among other dancers who intermittently pop up and, occasionally, random bystanders who get caught up in her rhythm. Admittedly, the filmmaking isn’t nearly as inventive as the soundtrack that inspired it, but the energy builds and builds throughout until I found myself more entertained than I had been all year. The film’s only exchange of dialogue (delivered in subtitles as the music continues to dominate the soundtrack, almost recalls The Red Shoes’ “Why do you dance?” dialogue. A Hasidic Jew asks Marsen, “Why are you dancing?” with a look of mild discomfort and genuine curiosity. “Because I’m happy,” she cheerfully replies, still bouncing. The man smiles. “You should always be happy.” Grade: B+

Sound of Noise (Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, 2012)

Stomp made into an anarchic hunt for unshackled music, Sound of Noise is, by turns, a caper and a romantic comedy, pulsing with its unorthodox percussion and tittering with its makeshift cymbals and blocks. A metronome becomes the equivalent of a bomb detonator for a group of anarchist drummers who make the world into music, thus rendering it soundless for the tone-deaf policeman who chases them. It is a great conceit and routinely funny in execution, but what the film is not is the city symphony for Malmö it feels as if it will become at nearly every moment before falling short. Its ingenious street compositions are thrown off by routine plot mechanics that not only puts too much dead air between performances but often interrupt the few bits of music we get. The film is still enjoyable, but it feels like so much untapped potential. Grade: C+

Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij, 2012)

The Sound of My Voice recalls other recent films about cults—Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Master—not merely in its subject matter but in its strengths and weaknesses. In all three films, the actor playing the cult leader does an exceptional job of capturing the ambiguous tone between someone projecting freewheeling improvisation and eerie omniscience. But Brit Marling’s excellent performance, all soothing but firm suggestions that crucially stop just short of direct commands, is undercut by everything around her. All cults are thinly sketched (the aforementioned cult movies even make this a key aspect of their observed sects), but rarely are the people they comprise so vague as well. Sound of My Voice offers no sense of how or why anyone ever gravitated toward Marling’s Maggie, much less how they developed the fanatical loyalty necessary to overlook her obvious fakery. Oh, but is it fakery, dear reader, for the film contains a twist! Admittedly, it does go to the trouble of laying track toward the climactic revelation, but the twist still feels like a lazy counter to everything the film had been saying to that point. Grade: C-


  1. Jake, I had similar issues with Sound of My Voice, though I think that I liked it a bit more than you did. It's almost like the movie felt incomplete. It moved deliberately for a while then rushed the ending. That ambiguity didn't really work and created more frustration than any type of excitement. It's an interesting movie and had promise, but it never really comes together.

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