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The Boston Globe


Movie Review

In ‘Berberian Sound Studio,’ what you hear isn’t what you get

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?

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