Great World of Sound
September 21st, 2007
Writer/director Craig Zobel is perhaps best known as the co-creator of the endlessly entertaining "Homestar Runner" website. However, if you're hoping to find the absurdist wit of Strong Bad in "Great World of Sound," the film will be a crushing disappointment. For his directorial debut, Zobel isn't hunting for laughs, but to reveal the potential for unbridled fraud that lies at the heart of every human being.
Looking for a steady job in the music industry, Martin (Pat Healy, “Rescue Dawn”) takes a gig as a salesman for the Great World of Sound, selling record contracts to desperate artists hoping for stardom. His partner is Clarence (a vibrant Kene Holiday, “Matlock”), an older man with a clear sense of purpose. Together they travel around economically depressed areas of America looking to sign people up, taking money from the poor for objectives they don’t quite understand, or choose not to.
“Sound” is a cinematic effort of striking confidence, forgoing reliance on genre staples to study distasteful psychological cracks and perversions of monetary faith. It’s a film that will upset, entertain, and bore, often in the same moment. “Sound” is a peculiar creation, submitting Zobel’s ample gifts as a director, revealing his inexperience as well as his promise.
Moving at a snail’s pace, “Sound” is primarily about the art of the salesman con, presenting two characters that slowly learn the polish of sweet talking and acute confrontation as they meet hundreds of musical acts during the average day in their cramped hotel room. This birth of this poise is of primary concern to Zobel, who permits massive amounts of screentime to focus on Martin and Clarence double-teaming their guests, nudging them toward the all-holy moment of payment while stroking egos for maximum coin. In small doses, the sequences are stunning, preying upon the “American Idol” curse that’s encouraged Americans to consider a life in the music industry. However, the scenes make their point quickly, but Zobel enjoys lingering in the moment, overemphasizing the grind of the swindle in a fashion that suggests a mistrust of the viewer.
Later in the picture, when Martin begins to sweat the legitimacy of the Great World of Sound and the moral elasticity of Clarence, “Sound” drops its semi-light approach and delves into murky waters where Martin starts to lose himself in all the confusion and swindle. It’s all an inch past Healy’s acting abilities, but dramatically the dark side is fascinating, distracting Martin from the solace of his home life and pushing him into the arms of a singer he hopes to protect from the con.
“Great World of Sound” is a rough sit for those with less art-house stamina, while providing further proof that the art of the salesman is a revolting process. But there’s a ripe presentation of moral fluidity that’s fascinating to behold inside every glacial minute.
My rating: B