The noise heard in many blockbusters these days doesn’t raise one’s confidence about the future of sound in Hollywood. But the poetic nuances of, say, a splattered zucchini can be heard in Peter Strickland’s challenging thriller, “Berberian Sound Studio.” His film not only exploits one of cinema’s most important modes, it also attempts something more difficult: turning a genre movie into a work of art.
To its credit, the 1970s Italian studio of the title values the art of sound, but that doesn’t mean it’s a nice place to work. On the contrary, it might be an anteroom of hell. Meek British sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones) arrives and is greeted by a rude receptionist and a woman’s screams. The latter are being recorded for a film in production; it’s only a movie, but as Gilderoy’s growing paranoia blurs the real and the hallucinatory, you have to wonder, what does “only a movie” mean?