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‘The Sound of Silence’ Review: Plenty to Hear, but What Does It Mean?

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There’s something about a movie that goes out of its way to embrace the quiet — to make the audience really listen and be fully aware of every snippet of sound or sliver of silence — that feels refreshingly rare. In a medium that can be so reliant on character banter and song-stuffed sound cues, it can be powerful to be forced to concentrate on hearing noiselessness, so that the little sound that does occur is that much more meaningful.

“The Sound of Silence,” the feature debut of the director Michael Tyburski (who also wrote the screenplay with Ben Nabors), attempts to wield this power but does more telling than showing. Peter Sarsgaard plays Peter Lucien, a professional house tuner in New York City who assesses the ambient noise in people’s homes (electrical appliances, wind patterns) to pinpoint the source of their anxiety, depression or fatigue. Peter, a quiet observer deliberate in his choice of words, is painstaking in his efforts: The job is his life, and when he’s not acting as an apartment-whisperer, he’s out and about all over the city with tuning forks, mapping out the sonic patterns of each block and neighborhood.

Peter’s near-fanatical devotion to his work has served him well as the movie begins: His many satisfied clients leave him voice mail messages of effusive praise for changing their lives; he’s been profiled in The New Yorker. But he becomes unsettled when his diagnosis and proposed solution for Ellen (Rashida Jones), a nonprofit worker, fails to solve her chronic sleep issues. As he tries to get to the root of her problems (including the lingering pain from the demise of a long-term relationship), they develop something like a friendship, or an amiable case of opposites-must-interact.

The movie swells with grand ideas about our relationships with sound and with one another, often put forth through Peter’s soft-spoken voice, which oscillates between calming and eerie, or through the quiet and hum of city noises and orchestral music. But there isn’t much there there — the film’s sonic experimentation is decoration hung on a thin character. As stirring as Sarsgaard is in conveying Peter’s eccentricities, he can’t quite transcend the well-worn narrative trope of the obsessive oddball (usually a white man) who is unable to connect deeply with others.

Tyburski and Nabors do question their enigmatic protagonist somewhat: Though Peter’s research attracts the interest of a tech company hoping to capitalize on his findings, it’s met with skepticism from the academics and scholars he wants to please most. The suggestion that Peter, like the Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, might not be as groundbreaking as he thinks is the most compelling and least proverbial conflict raised in the movie — yet the screenplay skims over it to focus on the conventional dynamic between the often irascible Peter and the more optimistic Ellen, who challenges him on his rigid view of the world.

“The Sound of Silence” wants to be heard, but, in the end, doesn’t have much to say.

The Sound of Silence

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes.

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Disclosure of Plácido Domingo Allegations Scuttles $500,000 Deal

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Next month, Mr. Domingo is scheduled to sing the title role in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” at the Hamburg State Opera. A spokesman for the company, Michael Bellgardt, said in an email on Tuesday that he expected Mr. Domingo to perform as planned “if nothing happens to call this into question.”

He is still expected to appear as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s “La Traviata” in May at the Teatro Real in Madrid, said Graça Prata Ramos, a spokeswoman for the company. And the Royal Opera House in London said that it planned to go ahead with his appearances there this summer. “Plácido will be here in the summer performing as planned in ‘Don Carlo,’ ” Vicky Kington, a spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday.

But there was a shift at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, which was the site of Mr. Domingo’s first return to the stage after the allegations against him were made public last summer. He is scheduled to return there in August to sing in Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani.” But the festival said it would seek further information before deciding on a course of action.

“The festival’s priority was and remains to treat the singer, who has been confronted with accusations of wrongdoing, fairly — in other words, not to rush to any judgment,” it said in a statement. “The facts, however, have now changed.”

Citing Mr. Domingo’s apology, which, it noted, conceded “that his behavior might have hurt the women in question,” the festival said it would seek more information about the investigations in the United States.

Mr. Domingo said in his statement that he took responsibility for his actions.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I have grown from this experience,” he continued. “I understand now that some women may have feared expressing themselves honestly because of a concern that their careers would be adversely affected if they did so. While that was never my intention, no one should ever be made to feel that way.”

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‘My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising’ Review: Superpowers Served Sweetly

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A popular manga series gets a worthy film installment with “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising,” an exhilarating animation that frames heroism as an act of community. In it, superpowered teenagers train to become professional heroes, then find themselves tested by the emergence of real villains. When they’re charged with defending a peaceful village, they become a team, sacrificing their individual dreams of glory for the greater good — as if “Seven Samurai” had gotten a pastel and playful transformation.

Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, the movie follows Midoriya (who goes by the nickname Deku and is voiced by Daiki Yamashita), a bright-eyed, green-haired student of U.A. High School, where aspiring heroes are trained. Though he has been gifted with a much-admired super ability — aptly dubbed the power of One for All — Deku is gentle. He’s driven by his love for the people he aspires to protect, a quality that makes him a sharp contrast with his egotistic rival, Bakugo (Nobuhiko Okamoto). But when villains appear, Deku and Bakugo band together with their classmates to fight against forces they don’t know if they can defeat alone.

The tenderness of Deku adds to the film’s often surprising emotional potency. But the visual style of the movie also works in service of feeling. At first the film employs bold, playful character design, delighting in images like a hero whose arms have eyeballs keeping watch on lifeguard duty. But as the challenges escalate, the design of the film becomes abstracted. Fights rage in almost Kandinsky-esque flurries of light and color; time stretches for the length of a single kick to encompass elegiac pop ballads. This is canny, passionate filmmaking, a reminder of the power of two-dimensional animation. First, it humanizes, then it astounds.

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising

Rated PG-13 for action and intense images. In Japanese, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes.

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At New York City Ballet, Swans Use Grit to Find Glory

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You don’t look at New York City Ballet and think to yourself: “Ah, swans.” Even though there are full-length ballets in its repertory, City Ballet is not known as a storytelling company. Non-narrative dances, most of them by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, are its oxygen; happily we breathe them in.

But then there are times — like last week — when the company hauls out its two-act “Swan Lake,” which wrapped up performances on Sunday at the David H. Koch Theater. As productions go, this version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet is not the prettiest feather in the flock. A holdover from the days of the company’s former ballet master in chief, Peter Martins, who choreographed it in 1996 and introduced it to City Ballet in 1999, it’s rushed yet ponderous. At times, the sets and costumes by Per Kirkeby make you want to crawl under your seat. The jester in orange and green decorated with a third-grader’s squiggles; the man’s shiny purple skirt and open black vest for the Russian variation; and the mismatched greens of the Villager women? It’s a lot of ugly for one stage.

When Odette, the princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer, appears at the lakeside, you feel her pain.

This season, the Act 2 pas de quatre, a speedy and demanding divertissement for three women and one man, was cut to help streamline the ballet. A wise move — only the most virtuosic dancers could make it through that prickly footwork alive — though the production felt as long as it ever did.

But I’ve started to wonder: While it certainly sells tickets, drawing hordes of girls dressed to the nines, does having a full-length “Swan Lake” at City Ballet serve another purpose? Not for the audience necessarily, but for the dancers — specifically those cast in that most renowned of ballerina roles, Odette/Odile?

Generally, dancers join City Ballet to dance the works of Balanchine. “Swan Lake” isn’t so much in their wheelhouse. (He did choreograph a one-act version.) But over the years, I’ve witnessed varied and striking performances — including this season — by dancers of differing body types, looks and technical depth.

There’s something interesting at play: The surprise of watching a dancer overcome her fears and insecurities about what “Swan Lake” means in the classical repertory to hold a stage and to embody a character all the while dancing — in that City Ballet way — as herself. It is determination in real time. It’s so wrong that it’s going to be right. You go out there — as many City Ballet dancers refer to the stage — and get it done. If 32 fouettés, or whipping turns, are out of reach, substitute a circle of piqué turns. You’re on the short side? Be a dazzling little swan. It’s all about going for it as yourself.

The role has layers to explore, and the results aren’t always pretty, but it’s continually gratifying to see a dancer rise to the occasion. The experience of watching “Swan Lake” at City Ballet is different than at American Ballet Theater, where it’s part of the tradition. That production, by Kevin McKenzie, has its problems, too. In the end, after a double suicide Prince Siegfried and Odette rise above the stage in a glowing sun that looks, in Ballet Theater fashion, like something out of a Disney cartoon.

In Mr. Martins’s emotionally penetrating ending — on a stage, lit to perfection as a glimmering lake — Odette parts ways with an inconsolable Siegfried in floor-skimming backward steps, disappearing through paths of swans that close in on her. Siegfried, who pledged his love to Odette’s wicked doppelgänger, Odile, has to live with his mistake.

It still feels modern, maybe even more so now given today’s sexual politics, which makes sense: At City Ballet, “Swan Lake” is also the story of modern women — the dancers who play Odette/Odile — escaping into a dream world. I can still see former swans like Monique Meunier, Jenifer Ringer and the incandescent Miranda Weese, who at just an hour’s notice for a PBS “Live From Lincoln Center” broadcast in 1999, stepped in for an injured Darci Kistler. It was her first time dancing the ballet with Damian Woetzel. This was bravery and beauty in a Swan Queen for the ages.

Sara Mearns should be televised in the role and broadcast all over the world. Last week brought the return of this reigning City Ballet principal, whose interpretation of Odette/Odile is now indelible. This season she elevated it to a place somehow both deeper and more natural as she cut through the excess — even her own lavishness — to show more power and delicacy. She lives the role so deeply, it’s chilling.

Ms. Mearns has grown up with the ballet. In 2006, when she was just 19, she was plucked from the corps de ballet to dance Odette/Odile. This season performing opposite Guillaume Côté, a guest dancer from the National Ballet of Canada — from his mime to his partnering, he was a class act — Ms. Mearns embodied Odette especially to her barest essence.

Ms. Mearns is the rarest of artists: What other dancer has conquered Odette/Odile and, with wildness and precision, the work of the modern choreographer Merce Cunningham?

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