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 realityâ€”here, literally so, as Casâ€™ 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.