The hypnotic pull of Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho's remarkable, award-winning "Neighboring Sounds" — one of the strongest feature debuts of the last decade — is in its mysterious density of techniques.
Set in seaside Recife on street of high-rises occupied by wealthy owners, well-off renters and the underclass that cleans for them, the film dips in and out of their lives and gender, race and socio-economic issues. There's the dissatisfied housewife who smokes pot, the sugar magnate's grandson who amiably oversees the patriarch's properties, the maid who likes to tryst in a day-vacated condo. But Filho primarily views his characters through the prism of uneasy personal safety and surveillance.
A string of crimes leads the block to hire a private security company, but does suspicion necessarily prevent crime or provide peace of mind? Using a brilliant cinematic mosaic of classically tense framing, naturalistic humor, ever-increasing dread and — as the title promises — the distracting, masking cacophony of everyday life, Filho creates an entrancing world in which private spaces and public areas, no matter the time of day, feel like branches of the same collective urban nightmare. (And more specifically, Brazil's own class-riven history.)
Filho depends on your natural curiosity about how his many threads tie together — and they do, for a real punch of an ending — but his mastery of pacing, theme and stylistic eccentricity throughout "Neighboring Sounds" is so assured as to be breathtaking. Don't miss it.