There is something seriously seductive about this flawed but intriguing debut fiction feature from Brazilian critic, writer and filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho. It's inevitable we'll be reminded of mosaic melodramas like Crash or Magnolia by the relay construction of the plot, following a few months in the life of a back street of closed condos in the Brazilian city of Recife. But Mr. Mendonça Filho isn't so much looking for strict narrative linearity; instead, for an accumulation of details that will leave a number of plot points unsolved while creating a distinctive sense of life being lived and people dealing with their surroundings as best they can.

     In many ways, O Som ao Redor is a study of class in modern day Brazil, of the disparity between the middle class that can afford to live locked behind their barred doors with live-in maids, and those who aspire to such comforts or resent those who have them. One revealing scene in a condo meeting reveals the degree of resentment some of these middle-class people even have towards each other, and is one of the more sharply observed moments in a film full of such tell-tale details, carefully layered to say something about Brazilian society in a sophisticated, smart way.

     The connecting thread - the arrival of a self-appointed private security team to watch over the streets - will eventually pay off in the film's conclusion; but the way there can often be full of winding turns that don't always make sense, and of superfluous, surplus interludes or characters, as if Mr. Mendonça Filho felt like cramming everything into his film afraid he might not get to do a second. That, however, is also a part of its charm, its unwieldy running time eventually allowing the viewer enough time to feel his way in and let himself be seduced by this tale of people who find themselves imprisoned in their own lifestyles.

Irandhir Santos, Gustavo Jahn, Maeve Jinkings, W. J. Solha, Irma Brown, Yuri Holanda, Lula Tena, Albert Tenorio, Nivaldo Nascimento, Clebia Sousa, Sebastião Formiga.
     Director/writer, Kleber Mendonça Filho; cinematography, Pedro Sotero, Fabrício Tadeu (colour, processing by Megacolor, Techniscope widescreen); music, DJ Dolores; art director, Juliano Dornelles; costumes, Ingrid Mata; editors, Mr. Mendonça Filho, João Maria; producer, Émilie Lesclaux (Cinemascópio in associate production with Estúdios Quanta), Brazil, 2012, 131 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012 advance screener, April 13th 2012. 


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