Sunday, 27 January 2013

Berbatov, sorry, Berberian Sound Studio

There was a time when I didn't know who Toby Jones was. Now it transpires he's been in just about every great movie I've seen going back decades. And he's the son of noted Brit actor Freddie Jones - best known (by me) for Frankenstein Must be Destroyed - mentioned in my Hammer tribute to Dimi Berbatov..
(speaking of which I went to Craven Cottage last week to watch a Fulham FC game and had a great time).

How is this for a range of characters...Toby Jones's recent roles include Hitchcock (in The Girl), Truman Capote (in Infamous), Arnim Zola (in Captain America), Claudius Templesmith (in The Hunger Games) and ... Karl Rove (in Oliver Stone's .W).

He seems to have a habit for going head to head with more famous actors playing the same real figure in movies released at the same time. In 2006, in Infamous, he produced a more realistic version of Truman Capote than Philip Seymour Hoffman had the year before in Capote. This year his version of Alfred Hitchcock, in The Girl (about the making of The Birds and Marnie), has set a real challenge for Sir Anthony Hopkins, in Hitchcock (a great deal more sympathetic portrayal about the making of Psycho).

Berberian Sound Studio is an excellent meta-horror movie, showing the recording of the soundtrack of a fictitious and typically eccentric 1970s Italian horror movie called, The Equestrian Vortex. It neatly solves
the problem of Italian horror movies being mostly better in theory than reality by presenting it via sound effects from a recording booth.

Jones plays a British recording engineer mysteriously taken from his work on travelogues in rural England to reproduce a series of horrifying sound effects that begin to effect his mind. Set entirely within the recording studio it manages to be truly mysterious, oblique and yet satisfying in a way that the heavily hyped British horror from last year, Kill List, completely failed to achieve.

Director and writer Peter Strickland creates strange mix of Repulsion era Roman Polanski and period Dario Argento in a chockingly real version of the 1970s. Berberian Sound Studio would equally be a brilliant double bill with either the recent Tinker Tailer Solider Spy or a film like Suspiria (on which The Equestrian Vortex is seems to be based, for the Dance Academy becomes a Horse Riding Academy in the other )

It amounts to the best "Italian" horror I've seen in 25 years - even if it is actually British/German. Not sure what the Italian cast make of the slightly stereotypical portrayal of Italians but as the typically arcane and twisted The Equestrian Vortex itself is mostly presented with a reverential smirk they presumably take it in good humour. If you are aware of the exquisite agony of watching surreal/genius/awful Argento movies you will have a ball with some of the references here. I think they may have missed an opportunity to include a drugged up Italian prog rock band but I guess that might have titled a finely balanced movie towards silliness

Berberian Sound Studio is an obviously loving tribute to the genre and era - while having a good chuckle at it - and it reminded me of Don't! , Edgar Wright's fake trailer for a fake British 70s horror movie
included in Tarrantino's Grindhouse.

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