A single, affluent block in the oceanfront city of Recife, Brazil, and its residents are the subject of Neighboring Sounds, writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho's arresting, energetically oblique debut. A Recife native, Filho has taken what he knows about lives lived in the shadow of fading sugar dynasties and translated it into a film that marries classical gloss and omnibus scope with an invigorated, keenly sensory approach. Security is of premium concern on this block: Housewife Bia (Maeve Jinkings) is driven to an existential torment by a neighbor dog's ceaseless barking; courtly playboy João (Gustavo Jahn) is mortified when his new girlfriend's (Irma Brown) car is burgled outside his home; and a pop-up home-security outfit led by a working-class hustler (Irandhir Santos) sets up an overnight watch to keep a paranoid community "safe." A host of characters (including a former sugar baron played by W.J. Solha) is more layered than interwoven, each one revealed only in sidelong fragments. A tightening of the two-hour-plus running time might have enhanced the balance between Filho's epic, evocative style and his smaller story about a certain mode of modern life, its lonely confrontations, and the stubborn legacies of the past.
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