Topology of Sirens (2021, Jonathan Davies)

The hook here is the investigation when Courtney Stephens (Terra Femme) finds mysterious recordings in her aunt’s house. But the movie is less about the mystery than about soaking in a certain vibe (a recent cliche, but with all the sound vibrations here, it’s fitting). She’s in a California town without any “normal” residents around to smirk at the weirdness on display – instead everyone here is into avant-garde music, history, and sound recording technology. Between that and the measured pace and all the plants and gardens on display, it’s a calming movie which reminded me at times of Jacques Rivette, Alvin Lucier, and Peter Strickland (but in a good way).

The mystery begins with a hurdygurdy full of microcassettes found in a locked closet, and well before the Sirens arrive the movie lets us know it’s not too concerned with realism when Courtney sees a TV ad for an “always open” hurdygurdy store where she might learn more, trading her extremely rare but nonfunctioning hurdy for a centuries-old working instrument. She visits a local TV station because their jingle is the only recognizable sound on the tapes, and starts flashing the tapes’ handwritten symbols around to shopkeepers, unlocking new secrets.

interesting patterns, given I watched Symphonie diagonale the same day:

I’m mad that I didn’t realize The Love Witch was one of the Sirens. I could’ve seen either of Courtney’s musician friends Whitney Johnson or Sarah Davachi at Big Ears (but did not). No surprise that Davies is a sound and music guy on other films (including the recent Ham on Rye, which shares significant crew members with this).

doesn’t work as a still, but this is one of the finest shots of the year:

Jordan Cronk in Mubi:

As a musician himself, Davies is unsurprisingly fascinated by analog technologies and the way sound can tell stories and transform reality—here, literally so, as Cas’ existential quest eventually summons a breach in which characters slip away, identities split, and storylines fold into a space where the familiar is rendered strange and intoxicating. Forgoing garden variety narrative markers in favor of a more meditative form of storytelling, Topology of Sirens opens up avenues for thought and reflection that precious few films afford.