Tag Archives: The Sisters Brothers

Sound of Metal

23 Nov

‘Sound of Metal’: Drummer loses his hearing, showing him more than expected on healing

By Tom Meek
Friday, November 20, 2020

“Sound of Metal” kicks off with a raw punk rock performance in a small club. The camera hangs on the band’s drummer, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), smacking the skins silly as the lead singer, a snarling, red-maned chanteuse named Lou (Olivia Cooke), growls indecipherable lyrics at the crowd. It’s a punchy, tight focus you want more of, but Darius Marder’s feature debut (he was the writer of “The Place Beyond the Pines”) switches gears as it dives into a more audibly serene world where the turmoil is deeper and you can’t simply power your way through.

Ahmed, the rapper-turned-actor so good in supporting roles in “The Sisters Brothers” (2018) and “Jason Bourne” (2016), gets his front and center here. His Ruben and his bandmate/significant other cruise around in a shiny RV playing gigs until one day Ruben can’t hear so well. He’s also been a user; at an impasse to perform, at Lou’s behest it’s off to a rehab facility for deaf addicts. It’s at the farmhouse enclave that Ruben hits another major snag: The facility’s sermoning leader (Paul Raci, whose parents were deaf) wants to teach Reuben to be deaf and proud, while Ruben keeps hoping for some type of cure or treatment as a way back. Lou, meanwhile, is slipping quietly away, involved with other bands.

The film was shot mostly here, on the North Shore, and has that same somber, gritty texture that “Manchester by the Sea” (2016) registered. Part of that is Marder’s ingenious use of sound from Reuben’s POV. Of course the film is all Ahmed, whose wide eyes and creased brow tell a different story than the polite, calm words rolling out of Ruben’s mouth. His scenes with Lou and Raci’s hippie guru as he deals with loss and uncertainty are raw and electric. The acting all around is so good, I’d have to jump back to “The Trial of the Chicago 7” for something on par, but “Sound of Metal” goes to a far more universally and emotionally raw place. Even a big movement such as a quick trip to Paris to see Lou’s father (Mathieu Amalric, from “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) doesn’t feel big. Lou’s Edith Piaf-esque performance at a piano concerto is riveting, as are the final few moments, guided adroitly by Marder, when Reuben undergoes a life-changing epiphany. You can hear every ache in the sound of silence.

The Sisters Brothers

5 Oct

‘The Sisters Brothers’: Hunting the chemist who can find gold – the West is rotten with it


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If the title feels like a tongue-twisting joke, it is, but the film’s anything but. Reminiscent of Robert Altman’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971) and Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country” (1962), “The Sisters Brothers” bites feverishly into the grim lawless landscape of the American Northwest during the mid 1800s mining boom. It’s quite a violent film, but also one with great emotional depth – a rare accomplishment that makes it the best American western to hit the screen since “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” reimagined the notorious outlaw’s demise back in 2007. Everything about the film unfurls in smoky, dark wisps. It bears the same kind of foreboding heaviness that crowded the Coen brothers’ 2010 recasting of “True Grit.”

To land in such fine company, “The Sisters Brothers” rides out of the stable something of an anti-western, everything that John Ford and John Wayne were not – square-jawed and morally black and white. Peckinpah and Sergio Leone would certainly be pleased. For starters, the siblings of the title, Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) are murderous souls whom we invariably come to care for just like Peckinpah’s richly drawn ruffians in “The Wild Bunch” (1969) and the film, shot largely in Span and Romania (close enough logistically to think spaghetti?) happens to be directed by the French auteur, Jacques Audiard (“Rust and Bone”). How’s that for nontraditional? Continue reading